Small Program, Big Dreams

Team doesn’t horse around
From left to right, riders Ashly Cutliff, freshman; Abby McGuire, sophomore; and Kolby Snow, sophomore; comprise the equestrian team.
From left to right, riders Ashly Cutliff, freshman; Abby McGuire, sophomore; and Kolby Snow, sophomore; comprise the equestrian team.
Dajah’s Digitals

The college is home to many different sports teams, and among those teams is a small program, the equestrian team.

While the team is small in numbers, currently only having three riders, they still try to let their presence be known to those around them.

“I am very lucky with the group of riders I currently have. They are all very dedicated to this team as well as becoming better horsemen and riders.  As athletes they work hard in practice and as students,” remarked Margaret Cornwell coach for the team.

“She also said the team at the start of this spring had the highest cumulative GPA in the Athletic Department.

“One of the things that has impressed me the most about this group is their willingness to serve others,” Cornwell said. “If they see a need, they fill a need!  There is always something to be done at the barn or at the shows, and they always step up and help out.”

The riders say they have a tight bond with one another. The group was brought together by the program, and despite different personalities and backgrounds, have formed into a unit.

“As a team, we are all really close, we definitely are all totally different types of people, but we all obviously come together and share one common goal,” Abby McGuire, sophomore, said. “Always talking about the ways we can improve, its really nice because we don’t really like hangout outside of practices, we probably wouldn’t have met each other but were really close now.”

The small-team environment creates a tight-knit atmosphere, drawing individuals closer to each other and building bonds between people who are a part of it.

“The athletes are fun to be around. I mean it’s small, so it’s just a very small team,” said Ashley Cutliff, freshman. “We all know each other really well, we also know out coach really well cause its like one on one.”

Equestrian brought the team together, but is also what brought the athletes to Ferrum, in general.

“I got an offer from Margaret to ride after I applied here, and Ferrum is the only private college with an equine studies program, so I wanted to come for my sport but also my major as well,” mentioned Kolby Snow, sophomore.

For the riders, horses have long been a part of what they do, and Ferrum was a chance to continue and further that aspect of their life.

“I’ve always ridden horses since I was little, but I had never rode English,” McGuire said. “Our coach’s husband, Joey, works with my dad, and he kind of recruited me after I quit playing softball. He got Margaret to call and talk to me and get me on the team,” said McGuire.

Equestrian is in the blood of certain members of the team, riders who are continuing a legacy passed down to them from previous generations.

“I’ve ridden ever since I was born,” Snow said. “My mom starting riding when she was little, so we have always had horses. Basically, I just grew up showing lead line and then went up into the little kid divisions up through high school and then got recruited by Margaret.”

Even with a small program, the riders still have hopes of glory that drive them forward and push them to be the best riders they can be.

“To be a better rider for my family and give our home barn and everything a name,” continued Snow about her hopes.

The program today is small and ambitious, but once upon a time, there were a greater number of riders chasing those goals.

“The program began in the late 70’s and eventually built a facility, now where maintenance is,” Cornwell said. “Over the years, the program grew up to an average roster of 20-25 riders per year. We had riders who consistently qualified for post-season competitions as well as riders who competed at IHSA nationals,” stated Cornwell.

That didn’t last, however, as a single blow crippled what was building into a larger program.

That blow was none other than Covid-19.

“One of our biggest challenges since 2013 was Covid,” Cornwell said. “The team lost a lot of leadership during those two years after Covid, and we have been working to rebuild since then.”

She said this year feels as though the program has rounded that corner.

“We have a young team and some new riders coming in the Fall of 2024. This will allow me to develop the leadership we need as we continue to grow our numbers,” Cornwell continued.

As that corner is rounded, the coach has a vision of bringing back what the equine program used to be, having a strong and competitive team.

“My vision for this program moving forward is getting back to having an average of 10-15 riders in the program as well as having more upper-level riders,” Cornwell said. ” The great thing about the format of our competitions is that all levels of riders can compete, but we are in need of more upper-level riders. I also want my riders to develop their horsemanship skills and riding skills while working with me.  It’s important to me that my riders who graduate from Ferrum have a more diverse knowledge of the horse industry.”

For the current riders, however, the goal is to become the best rider they can and maybe even get a spotlight to shine on their team.

“Honestly just wanting our team to get more recognition and honestly just being able to better myself, McGuire commented. “I just like to know I’m doing better than I was two weeks ago.”

This small program brought these riders together, and they have hopes of having their voice heard and their dreams seen–just like any other sport on campus.

“Its a wonderful program, and I feel like we don’t really get as much recognition; just as not a lot of people know we exist. So we do exist, and we are here,” Snow concluded.

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