Owls Love Horses

An inclusive team provides opportunities for training in horsemanship and equitation.

Photo by Tommy LaVergne
Photo by Tommy LaVergne

Selin Ergulen ’19 and Jessica Hartz ’19 had very different levels of experience when they joined the Rice Equestrian Team their freshman year. While Ergulen rode horses growing up, Hartz only wished she had. “My parents always told me I could horseback ride in college if I still wanted to,” she said. “I got dumped off my horse at my first lesson, but I got back in the saddle and kept at it for all four years.”

That’s the beauty of the team — anyone can join. “No riding experience is required,” Hartz said. “Some have competed their whole lives, a few have tried trail riding and others have no riding experience.” While team members have different skill levels and backgrounds, they all share a love for animals and the outdoors. “I don’t necessarily even need to ride,” said Ergulen, who served as team president last year. “It’s a good mental break to get off campus, engage with animals and be in nature.”

Coached by Cathy Strobel for the past 14 years, the team takes lessons once a week and works with about 20 horses. “It’s not good to get too used to a certain horse, because you never know which horse you’ll have for competition,” Ergulen said.

The team also competes in shows and hosts one each season. They all pitch in to coordinate judging, cleaning, grooming and registration. “It’s such a great way to bond,” Hartz said. “I’ve met so many of my best friends on this team. It’s also another way to meet people at Rice — people from other colleges that you wouldn’t otherwise meet.”
— Kendall Schoeman

Fast Facts

1. Founded in 2003, the Rice Equestrian Team is a club sport.

2. No, you haven’t missed the campus stables. The team practices at the Southern Breeze Equestrian Center in Fresno, about 45 minutes from campus.

3. With about 10 members at any given time, the Rice Equestrian Team takes on big universities with more than 60 members in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, like LSU, Tulane and Texas State.

4. Their mascot is a miniature horse named Mini Cooper, who cheers the team on by sporting a Rice-branded blanket.

- Kendall Hebert