Animal science sophomore Hannah Brink first rode a horse when she was 7 years old. She’s slowly progressed through the world of dressage ever since.
“I love the challenge of having to communicate with a 1,000-pound animal without using words,” she said. “There are always places to improve in your riding, so it never gets boring or old.”
Brink is a member of the MSU Dressage Club, a club for students interested in both horses and dressage. According to animal science senior and MSU Dressage Club President Sydney Faylor, dressage is “kind of like dancing on horseback.”
“Dressage is a French word that means training, where the horse performs movements in response to the riders, aids to develop his natural abilities,” she said.
There are nine levels of dressage. The lower levels consist of moving the horse in circles, moving sideways and showing off the three gaits: walk, trot and canter. According to Faylor, the difficulty increases as you work through the levels.
“The horse and rider must work together as a team, and it takes years of training to be able to successfully compete at the upper levels of dressage,” Faylor said.
According to biochemistry and molecular biology junior and club treasurer Lara Stephens-Brown, dressage is a competition against oneself instead of a competition against other people in a class.
“You are competing against a standard,” she said. “I like that in dressage you get scores — you see how you did every minute of that test. I’m very numbers-oriented and being able to see my scores broken down, not just getting placed in a class based on the judge’s whims, suits me very well.”
Within the club is the dressage team, which consists of 12 competitors. Both Brink and Stephens-Brown are on the MSU Dressage A-team. According to Faylor, the Dressage team typically has five Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA) competitions per year.
“I especially love the team aspect of the MSU team because that’s not something you always get at a typical dressage barn,” Brink said.
The MSU Dressage team hosted their own two-day show in October.
When it comes to funding, the club has struggled to maintain financial security. Faylor said the club receives no financial support from MSU. Therefore, the team is based at Stapleton Farm in Leslie, Mich., a farm that is owned and run by team coach Ruth Hill-Schorsch.
“We have worked very hard to gain support and publicity for our club and team,” Faylor said.
This year, the club received scholarships from Doctors Foster and Smith Pet Supplies and DC Martin & Son Scales. And last week, the club received a $500 grant from the IDA to help cover the costs of the IDA show they hosted in October.
“Since we are not supported financially by the university and our coach is a volunteer position, these sponsorships and grants are extremely important to us, and we could not be more thankful,” Faylor said.
In addition, the club hosts fundraisers at bd’s Mongolian Grill to help cover the cost of the events that the club participates in.
“Since horseback riding is so expensive and we are all college students, as a club we try to help cover show costs for team members and costs of social events for club members, so a lot of our sponsorship and fundraising money goes to that as well,” Faylor said.