Horses and community: Meet American University’s equestrian team
‘As long as you are comfortable around horses, we would love to have you.’
Editor's note: Jelinda Montes, The Eagle's assistant opinion editor, is a member of AU's equestrian team. She was not involved in the writing, editing or reporting of this story.
When Elizabeth Margeotes came to American University, she didn’t know that AU had an equestrian team. After overhearing a conversation in Starbucks her freshman year about the team, it piqued her interest, and she decided to join. As a senior, Margeotes is now president of the team.
Founded in 2003 by alumni Jessie Loutoo and Lana Ciaramella, the equestrian team offers an encouraging environment for those with a passion for equestrianism.
Equestrianism is rooted in ancient Greece when dressage would equip horses for war. Equestrianism lost popularity until its revival during the Renaissance period. Modern dressage can be traced back to the Spanish Riding School in the 18th century.
Modern-day equestrianism can be found at American University.
The equestrian team is a welcoming community to anybody with an interest in equestrianism.
“As long as you are comfortable around horses, we would love to have you,” Margeotes said.
The equestrian team rides out of Burtonsville, Maryland, at Springhill Stables, which is approximately 45 minutes outside of D.C. Riding outside of the city gives riders time to find peace with the horses and their team.
The equestrian team makes riding sessions quite flexible in order to accommodate riders’ hectic college schedules. Riders take lessons once a week at the barn, allowing them to have a weekly escape from the stress of school life. Everyone practices on different horses at every practice to ensure that they do not become too accustomed to a particular horse.
“You get what you put into it,” Margeotes said.
The team’s head coach, Astrid “Star” Dalley, has been “coaching local riders to win for many years,” according to the team’s website.
The equestrian team is a part of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association in zone four, competing against schools such as Georgetown University, George Washington University, the University of Maryland College Park and Towson University.
While a majority of the equestrian team’s competitions are in the fall, two American University riders qualified for regionals this year. Margeotes qualified for limit flat and limit jumping, sophomore Alexa McCormick qualified for the limit flat and senior Katie Holzapfel qualified for the limit flat. All three qualifiers are in the same lesson group.
This year, American University is hosting the regionals competition. This gives American’s equestrians a home advantage, as they will most likely ride the same horses they ride during their lessons.
“It is a really exciting thing. We have a low-pressure team, so when anyone qualifies it is a really big deal,” McCormick said.
As a team of 17, the riders are a tight-knit community brought together through a mutual love of horses and competing.
“Instead of teammates, we are friends,” Margeotes said.
The American University equestrian team can be found on Instagram @aueqteam.
This article was edited by Liah Argiropoulous, Delaney Hoke and Nina Heller. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis, Natasha LaChac and Sophia Rocha.