The #HORSEGIRLS of Willamette University

I have great admiration for the girls who embrace the challenge of competitive riding while attending university. The task of balancing the rigours of higher education while managing the hours necessary to keep you and your horse in competitive form is not for the faint of heart. The benefits of spending time within the equine world are well documented; both physical and mental health, improved cognitive ability, and a sense of responsibility. More importantly, I believe riding with a team nurtures a united community of empowered women (and men) something more beneficial now than ever. The moral support and comradery amongst team members encourage the development of self-confidence, self-esteem and self-efficacy. The members of the Williamette Equestrian Team are a testament to the positive attributes of being a "Horse Girl." Not only have they manage through determination and hard work to start an IHSA team but united they stood their ground when faced with overwhelming negativity and opposition on their own campus. TKEQ has been a proud supporter of WET since we first met and now we are thrilled to collaborate with Klaudia, Hannah, and the team on the creation of #HORSEGIRL. We are not "weird" or "crazy", in fact, we are athletes, students, proud, dedicated, and determined to be the best horsewomen possible.

Meet the inspirational members of the Willamette Equestrian Team

Name:  Williamette Equestrian Team     Members: Klaudia     (captain), Hannah Shotwell (captain),

Home Base:  Willamette University in Salem, OR ( IHSA Zone 8, Region 4)

Discipline:  Hunters

Horses: We are lucky to have so many! Our favourites are Reggie, Seymour, William, Jazzy and Sister.

Started Riding: Our team is full of different riding abilities. Some of us came to the team and have been riding for over 10 years, others joined with no experience at all. We love having riders of different levels so we can all help each other improve.

Horses that had the most impact on your journey: Jedi, William, and Reggie- they all have taught us the hard and easy ways, falling off and getting back on and doing it right. They taught us to push through and persevere.

Most Challenging Time in your Riding career: Our most challenging time as a club sport on a liberal arts campus was when we experienced massive backlash and negative attacks on social media from many students and alumni. Our team was used as a scapegoat and blamed for using the majority of the school's funding as well as causing racism, exclusivity, and hatred on campus. The attacks on social media also accused us as the reason certain majors and other organizations no longer exist on campus. This continued over several days and then recently it started up again. All of the accusations and allegations are without merit and we continued to take the proper steps to follow the rules and submit the necessary paperwork for funding approval. Unfortunately, negative stereotypes commonly directed to equestrians persist. We are accused of being exclusive, expensive, and elitist. Nothing could be further from the truth, we want our team to grow and be diverse. We learned to not give into the negative perceptions people have but to take the high road and do our best to show who we really are. As a team, we learned to persevere and not give in to the negativity that can be found on social media.

Most Rewarding Moment: I think our most rewarding moment was hosting our very first IHSA horse show and being told how well it was run. As wellhearing how impressed everyone was with our horse care. The owners said we treated their horses better than they expected and that honestly gave us so much joy.

Who has inspired/guided/encouraged you? Our past and current advisors: Cady Campbell, Kaitlyn Rice, Jordis Miller, and Bryan Schmidt.

Words to Live By: "Do it with passion or not at all."

Looking forward 5 to 10 years, where do you see the team? In 5-10 years we hope that team is thriving, growing, and is going to Zones at Stanford University. Team Captain Klaudia is a Senior and graduating this year with a BA in Biology/Chemistry. Hannah, the other Team Caption, is a Junior and will be back to lead WET next year.

Looking back 5 to 10 years, what advise/encouragement would you give your younger self? We would tell ourselves to literally let our haters be our motivators and push forward no matter what. We would say that we are doing our best and to keep moving forward.  I would personally tell everyone to just compete with themselves and not the other riders because we should all be focusing on improving ourselves and not the ribbons.

NOTE: Klaudia started the WET team during the Spring semester of her freshman year (2016). They didn't start competing until her junior year (2017-2018) prior to that they volunteered at Horses of Hope, a therapeutic riding centre.

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