Senior psychology major Sam Sommer, above, and her horse jump an obstacle at an equestrian show this fall. COURTESY OF STONY BROOK EQUESTRIAN CLUB

On most Sundays during the fall semester, you can find members of the Stony Brook University Equestrian Club wearing riding helmets, saddling horses and winning ribbons in competitions all over Long Island.

“We’re ranked second right now,” Giovanna Monti, a junior political science and environmental studies double major and president of the Equestrian Club, said.

This year, the organization that oversees all college-level equestrian competitions, the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The Stony Brook University Equestrian Club may not be quite that old, but it is still celebrating the nationwide organization that it belongs to.

“We’re definitely close to 50,” said Monti. “Our club is 30 years old plus.”

The Stony Brook Equestrian Club, which has about 30 members when alumni are included, gives university students the opportunity to ride with a team, no matter the level of experience. Although alumni cannot compete, they are allowed to attend the club’s events and meets to support the club members.

“We’ve basically all been riding our whole lives and knew it was something we wanted to continue,” Samantha Sommer, a senior psychology major and club member, said. “But when you join, it doesn’t matter how much experience you have. When you join this community, you learn how to grow.”

“It gives people who didn’t have the chance to ride and compete the chance to ride and compete,” Emily Flynn, a biology major, added. According to the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association’s rules, students can only be active riders for four years, so Flynn, who is about to finish her ninth semester, is considered an alum. In spite of that, she is still very vocal about her love for the club. “The team has just grown so much in the last two years.”

During the school year, the Equestrian Club’s members participate in weekly riding lessons at a small barn off campus to ensure they are performing at their best. They practice and compete with horses called schooling horses, which are provided for them by the barn.

“Lessons are split not only on your availability, but also on experience,” Sommer said.

The Equestrian Club competes in two different seasons, fall and spring, and participates in shows hosted by colleges all over Long Island. The club participates in seven shows in the fall and three in the spring. They also recently hosted their own show on October 16.

“When you’re hosting a show, you don’t sit down all day,” Sommer said. “But it went really smooth.”

According to Monti, the Stony Brook Equestrian Club hosted 232 riders in varying classes of experience. They were responsible for organizing the classes themselves and also sold food to raise money for their club, as they have to pay out of pocket for both their riding lessons and clothes.

Overall, the three riders want people to understand that while horseback riding is an extremely physically demanding sport, it is also enjoyable and fun, especially in a team setting.

“We’re very dedicated,” Sommer said. “Once we get going, we don’t stop. It’s not easy, either.”

“You use muscles you didn’t even know you had,” Monti added. “Horseback riding as a sport is for yourself. To have a sport that is usually for yourself have that camaraderie is incredible.”

“Without the team, I don’t think I would’ve made any friends,” Flynn said with a laugh. “Growing up, I was the crazy horse girl. It’s just being surrounded by people with the same interests as you.”