Prospective students who come tour the Alfred University equestrian center to learn more about our IHSA program always seem a little nervous when I mention the mandatory workouts the captains host every week. It is my hope that when they leave the barn they understand that our workouts are not nearly as terrifying as they sound.
Yes, the workouts are hard because our captains encourage us to push ourselves. Yes, you will get sweaty and be a little sore the next day. But our captains make these workouts fun in a way I truly never thought working out could be. We dance while we are jogging on the track, we crack jokes when we are stretching, and we laugh together the whole time. Our “mandatory workouts” may sound intimidating, but they are not only geared towards making us stronger in the tack, they are focused on making out team a family.
I know what you are probably thinking, because I too thought team bonding sounded cheesy when I first came into the IHSA program, but I have never been so happy to be proven wrong. Our team really does bond during our workouts, making us supportive group of friends and, as a result, more competitive in the show ring because we know—win or lose—our teammates will be proud of us for riding to the best of our abilities.
Last week we hosted a dodgeball game which the captains (although worried we would injure ourselves just two days before our show at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York) agreed to count as our workout for the week — so long as we promised not to hurt ourselves. I can’t even remember how many games we played, because no one wanted to stop playing. We were competitive with our rival teammates, we laughed when our friends and new teammates got us out, and we even had some other (non-equestrian) students join in on the fun.
Because of our dodgeball game and the other workouts held this week our team is going into the weekend with stories to retell and laugh about, an even closer bond, and stronger muscles. Our team is going into this show as a team, ready to support and cheer each other on, and most importantly to enjoy our time together with some amazing horses.