STORRS, Conn. – Jonathan the Husky is not the only four-legged animal that can be found on the UConn campus; in fact, it was the UConn field hockey team that discovered one of the school’s hidden treasures in late April.
As part of a team-building exercise, field hockey coaches and players visited the famed UConn equestrian team on Horsebarn Hill Road to learn a thing or two about riding horses from the experts.
Equestrian and dressage team members matched up with field hockey players to share their knowledge of horseback riding, with plenty of smiles and laughs along the way. In the week before final exams, it gave players the chance to relax with a fun activity.
“We’re always looking to do team-building activities and we were fortunate because UConn has such a great equestrian program,” said head coach Nancy Stevens, an avid horseback rider.
The UConn men’s and women’s polo teams have won multiple national championships, in addition to fielding dressage and jumping teams. There are approximately 80 horses in the facility.
“We have a number of players who have ridden before and a number who wanted to try it, so it was a great team-building opportunity,” said Stevens.
The team spent an hour riding on the well-trained horses in the indoor area due to rain, giving everyone a chance to experience a unique form of sport away from the George J. Sherman Family Sports Complex.
“A lot of laughs, no injuries…It was a great experience; everyone had so much fun,” said Stevens, who trained with the men’s and women’s polo teams for eight years upon her arrival in Storrs.
“I have been fortunate to have ridden most of my life…I played polo in Chicago, which is where I learned to play,” said Stevens. “When I came to UConn, I played with the polo teams in scrimmages, which was really exciting for me.”
Equestrian is not an NCAA sport, but is rather run by the United States Polo Association (USPA), which sponsors a national championship competition.
Stevens also participated in dressage, a sport where horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements. She has owned three horses in her riding career – one jumper and two dressage.
“In addition to the equestrian sports, I have done six horseback safaris in Africa and the past couple of years, I have gone to Iceland to ride the Icelandic course,” said Stevens.
With all of Stevens’ riding experience, the equestrian team provided the perfect opportunity for the field hockey program to bond before leaving campus for the summer. Players will return in early August for practice.