A morning with the equestrian team

March 4, 2019 9 a.m.

The Princeton Equestrian Team, which welcomes students of all experience levels, provides opportunities for riding, competition and volunteering at a local stable.

On a chilly morning, several horses draped with blankets are enjoying a bite of hay before a day of riding. Princeton University senior Jean Bellamy walks out to greet Orbit, a 4-year-old gelding, to prepare him for time in the ring.

Bellamy, a psychology major, has had a passion for horses since she was 5 years old and is finishing her last year at Princeton as club president of the equestrian team. The Princeton Equestrian Team is one of the Office of Campus Recreation’s nearly 40 sport clubs, and all students are welcome to join the team regardless of prior riding experience. For some members of the team, this is their first time riding or even spending time around horses. Others have been riding since childhood. The one thing all of the students share is how much the club enhances their Princeton experience, socially and academically.

“It helps me better focus, manage my school work better,” said sophomore Lauren Tang, a computer science major. She described her time with the horses as a form of pet therapy. “Riding a horse is very cathartic for me,” Tang said. “It makes me feel at peace and very in tune.”

The students meet weekly for lessons at Silver Dollar Stables in Cranbury, New Jersey, about 10 miles from campus. In addition, club members volunteer to help out around the stable, providing them the opportunity to bond with the animals and develop a deeper understanding of horsemanship.

“The Princeton Equestrian Team is great to have,” said Anne Stevens, owner of Silver Dollar Stables. “We get a lot of energetic undergraduate and graduate students from all over the world. We get to meet them, to know them and to make them a part of our family.”

On many weekends, the team competes with teams from other schools as part of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) — an organization made up of over 400 member colleges in 45 states. The host college provides the horses, and students can compete at any level. It’s an all-day affair, requiring Princeton students to spend the day competing while using any down time for homework and studying.

“It’s a bonding experience being there all day, but you also get things done,” Bellamy said.

Ashton Phillips, who has been coaching the club since 2004, has seen it evolve over the years. “The team has become far more diverse than it was then,” Phillips said. “We have students from all over the country and all over the world, of various backgrounds, and I think that adds a great element of individuality and uniqueness to the team.”