Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
What have Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Drexel got that we don’t got? If you answered “an equestrian club,” you’d be right, but not for long. Kim Comer ’09 and Esther Burson ’10 are teaming up to found Swarthmore’s student riding club. Starting in the fall, they hope to give experienced and aspiring riders a chance to learn equestrian skills or practice a hobby they may have had to give up after starting college.
Both Comer and Burson are experienced riders. Burson transfered to Swarthmore from Wesleyan, where she spent a year on the equestrian team. She was sad to find that Swarthmore didn’t have a team and started looking into ways she could ride at her new school. Comer rode as a child and describes herself as a former “barn rat” who worked around horses and rode whenever she got the opportunity. In high school she attended national competitions. Since coming to Swarthmore, however, the demands of academic and extracurriculars consumed her time; since riding at college is less convenient than other activities, she says, it is “nearly impossible” to keep up with it.
Since both Bryn Mawr and Haverford have existing equestrian clubs, Burson first approached them to see if creating a Tri-Co group would be feasible. When this option proved to be too much of an organizational hassle, she and Comer discussed forming an independent Swarthmore club.
They scouted out a nearby barn – Willowmay Farm – that has experience with college groups, being home to both BMC’s and Haverford’s team. In addition to being nearby and accustomed to dealing with college teams, the barn would provide most of the services associated with riding except for clothing. That means more time riding, less time saddling horses and mucking stalls.
When an exploratory email in Reserved Students garnered more than 40 emails from interested students, they went to the Chartering Committee to pitch their ideas and secure a budget.
Although there are no exact numbers yet, Comer and Burson expect that the school will subsidize the cost of lessons for students in the club, bringing the approximate cost down to about $15 per lesson. While it is unusual for college activities to come with a fee, Burson explained that people who are interested in riding will understand that they are “getting lessons for a steal.” Not only will the college be picking up about half the tab, the club will be making arrangements with the barn to have groups lessons and extra help.
Once it starts up, the equestrian club will be open to all interested students, regardless of prior experience. Comer and Burson hope to be able to accommodate both students who want to invest a significant amount of time in the club as well as those who are just interested in trying the sport out. According to Burson, one of the benefits of riding in college is that a college team gives you the opportunity to “get into something completely new”, largely because riding in the real world is “insanely and prohibitively expensive.”
Because of low funds and the current crisis in SBC, they expect that the club won’t start until next semester. But based on the response to their ad in Reserved Students and the lack of opportunities to ride at Swarthmore, they anticipate that the club will be very successful. If riding becomes a popular sport at Swarthmore, they are considering the possibility of registering in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association in a few years so that the “die hard” riders could compete with other teams. At this early stage, though, Comer says she is “disinclined” to make the club competitive.
The club is still looking for interested students and at least one more person to take on a leadership role, so if you want to get involved, email kcomer1 or eburson1.