by Igor Bosilkovski
Nicole Zakheim, a sophomore film production major is looking at the white board at the Orange County Fairgrounds Equestrian Center to find out what horse she’ll be riding today. She doesn’t seem particularly interested when she reads the name Ajax.
“He is quite finicky and not the most obedient horse in the world,” Zakheim said as she approaches his stall at the stable.
Zakheim is one of the members of the Chapman Equestrian Club, an organization founded in November 2012, consisting of twelve Chapman women Chapman who are enthusiastic about horses. The group has regular riding lessons every week at the OC Fairgrounds.
“Chapman subsidizes the riding program because it is an expensive sport and the school would like to see if become a club sport in the near future,” Zakheim said.
In high school, when she lived in Chicago, Zakheim said she was paying $500 a month for four lessons, and at Chapman she pays $200 a semester for a guarantee of one lesson per week, sometimes more if extra riding spots are available.
“To pay the amount of dues that we do for the amount of riding that we get is an incredible opportunity for anyone in the equestrian world,” Zakheim said.
Zakheim is soon joined at the stable by junior Melanie Lovejoy and sophomore Abby Smith, both strategic and corporate communication studies majors, and members of the club.
Lovejoy seems to have more luck than Zakheim today in getting a horse. She gets her favorite one, Duncan.
“Duncan’s a lot like the horse I had when I was younger, he’s athletic but moody. If you kick him or use your spurs, sometimes he’ll buck. He has a lot of personality,” Lovejoy said.
Lovejoy grew up on a 160-acre ranch in Montana, which is where she rode her first horse at the age of three, and went to her first showing the next year. She quit riding once she enrolled in high school. However, as of spring 2013 she was back at it through the equestrian club.
“When I came to college I missed it a lot, it was that one thing that connected me to being home. I was looking for a way to start riding and that’s why I joined Chapman Equestrian Club,” Lovejoy said.
The lessons usually last around an hour and a half. In that time, the riders work on their equitation both on the flat and over fences.
Nicol Shefmire, the equestrian club’s trainer, uses new technology for her lessons to make them as effective as she can. Each rider is provided an earpiece where they can hear immediate feedback from Shefmire through her microphone. This allows the riders to receive feedback as they go around the course, rather than be distracted by the trainer trying to yell to them, or having to wait until after the round to find out what they could improve upon next time.
Smith, team captain of the club, was raised in Marin County, where her family had horses when she was growing up. Smith explained why the team consists of only women.
“It’s a rule in the competitions that at the level we compete they only offer it to women. If guys wanted to join this club they are welcome to, but they wouldn't be able to compete,” Smith said.
Zakheim said that in the first year the intention of the club was to create a foundation, get a stable, trainer and get a consistent lesson plan going. From there, they would join the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) and start competing against schools such as USC, UCLA, UCSB and Redlands.
“Our club recently went on a USC hosted show and it was really intimidating in the beginning because all these other schools have really well built up programs. They have their own horses and tents and matching shirts. Clearly they’ve invested lots of money, but when it came to the showings we did really well and won a few divisions,” Zakheim said.
Smith said that the Chapman Equestrian Club is working with the athletic department and student organizations at Chapman in order to become a club sport, like the lacrosse team or crew team.
“It’s a huge liability to have girls ride horses off campus and it’s a long process with a lot of paperwork. Hopefully by fall semester, we’ll be able to have it done,” Smith said.
Zakheim said the Equestrian Club is trying to create a team of the twelve best riders on campus.
In order to do so the club has unofficial rolling tryouts throughout the semester, and official ones the second week of the semester.
Anyone is welcome to join the club, which means invitation to meetings and attending showings, however only twelve spots are available to riders to utilize the lessons and compete.