Hi everyone and welcome to our first Horse & Hound blog.
Squeezing it in between our studies, myself and thirteen other Durham students find time to get keep involved in the high-octane life of horses.
The world of student riding, while grounded in the world of dressage and showjumping, is unlike any other equestrian discipline. It’s this, along with the socials, great team spirit and endless entertainment that make it one of the best things I do at university.
The unique element of BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) competitions is that they don’t allow competitors to ride on their own horses. Instead, we compete on borrowed horses, provided by the host yard, and are given a strictly timed short warm-up (seven minutes for dressage, five for jumping) to familiarise ourselves with our mounts before each round. We are also only allowed a maximum of four warm-up jumps prior to competing in the showjumping
This means that no one needs their own horse and opens the competition up to a much greater audience.
Each team, consisting of four members, competes in a league with a further three teams from other universities; each hosting a competition at their “home” stables (usually a local riding stables).
The winner of each league goes on to regional matches and potentially the championships in May, however that’s a long way off and (depending on our success) the subject of another blog!
All work, no play?
Although we naturally love the competitive aspect, the social side is also great.
Our weekly training sessions are a great chance for us to get out of the routine of lectures and lose ourselves once more in the equine world. And even though we might all have joined the team to ride we still stick together once we’ve dismounted. From embarrassing fancy dress nights out (the new members came dressed as chickens to our welcome drinks this term) to black tie balls, Christmas meals to trips to international events we certainly know how to have a good time off the horses as well!
As I embark on my second year as captain and third year on the team, I can confidently say that this year’s is the best team we have ever had.
Building on a very successful 2014/15 season last year, when star-member Jade Watt took individual eighth at the national championships, we added a third team to our squad giving a further four members the great opportunity a chance to ride for team Durham.
With students coming from as far afield as Belgium and Germany and from all equestrian backgrounds, we have a very diverse team to which everyone brings something different and distinct.
The squad’s résumé makes for impressive reading; our members are peppered with
national champions in a vast array of disciplines and they continue to shine on their own horses during the university holidays. For a more detailed bio of each of our members, please follow this link to our Facebook page (http://tinyurl.com/qhen78q).
One member of the team who cannot go without a special mention is our team trainer. It would be an understatement to say we are incredibly lucky to be able to train with both Paula Allen and her daughter Pippa at their yard in Thornaby. Both Pippa and her sister Millie compete with huge success on the international showjumping circuit. They still find time to dedicate themselves to our team and we still can’t believe it when each week we drive up to the stables of the riders whom we have spent so long reading about in H&H and admiring from afar.
I think it’s fair to say that the Durham University equestrian team (known affectionately as DUET for short) is one of the unsung heroes of team Durham sport.
Although too small a sport to earn significant game-changing BUCS points for the university, for the past five years we have never failed to qualify at least one team or individual for the regional rounds and we hope to continue that tradition this year.
The competition style is unique, the team is tremendous and I believe it’s time our story was heard. We hope you join us on our journey — more to come soon…