The University of Alabama’s equestrian club is making strides toward becoming an established sports program. An all-girls team competing within the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, the young equestrian club has made considerable progress over the past few years, becoming more prominent at both the regional and national levels.
Last year, Lauren Scallon, a sophomore majoring in human development and family studies, qualified individually and placed third in the IHSA’s national competition in Harrisburg, Pa., for her event called Intermediate Flat, in which riders are judged on their presentation on their horses, as well as walking, trotting and cantering.
“It was definitely a great experience, and I really enjoyed it,” Scallon said. “I think we have some good talent this year, too, so hopefully we’ll go to nationals as a team and really show the University that we’re dedicated.”
This year, student interest in the program has reached an all-time high, with more than 100 girls trying out for the team last week at Westminster Barn in Northport, vying for spots ranging from beginner to higher level jumping events. These events are showcased at competitions throughout the Southeast against 10 other schools in the region, including the University of Georgia, where the first meet of the year will take place.
At competitions, individual riders are scored on their respective performances, and these points collectively count toward overall team standing at the end. In a sport that is often very individualized, the equestrian club is a unique experience for riders.
“It’s really awesome to see girls come from the type of background where it was just completely individual to working together as a team and going for a team goal,” Taylor Templin, a UA senior and president of the equestrian club, said.
Since its establishment four years ago, the team has improved and gained more official support from the university, this year being the first in which the coach will be university-paid and appointed.
Heather Callahan McCall, a University of Connecticut graduate and experienced collegiate coach, moved to Tuscaloosa in August to coach Alabama’s equestrian team and has high hopes for the program.
“There are about 20 teams that are NCAA. In the Southeastern Conference, [there are] Auburn, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Georgia. It’s definitely something we want to become in the future,” McCall said.