Members of the University’s Equestrian Club take the reins on a sport they love. Photography by Elizabeth Torgerson-Lamark • Text by Jayne Denker
At least once a week, early in the evening, a group of Rochester students travels to Lehman Farms, a private stable about 10 miles east of the River Campus. There, the members of the Equestrian Club, one of about two dozen student-run sports clubs, gather to enjoy the sport and art of horseback riding.
One of the few with outside coaches and an off-campus meeting place, the club is open to all Rochester students who wish to perfect their riding skills, meet with friends, blow off some steam, and breathe some off-campus air.
“It’s great to do something you really love and leave the stress of school behind for awhile,” says Rachel Sill ’05, president of the club.
Four years ago, the club was nearly defunct, with membership in the single digits—not quite enough to qualify for campus recognition.
Sill, fundraising chair Pam Okerholm ’05, and other officers have led the effort to build membership. They hooked up with a new stable that offered more opportunities to ride and better coaches for lessons, and they publicized the club’s existence with flyers and e-mail campaigns.
Now the group has more than 40 members, and there was no need to publicize at the start of the 2004–05 year—over the summer, more than 30 incoming students e-mailed the club asking for more information.
If students have a love for a sport, intellectual pursuit, or recreational activity, there’s most likely an organization devoted to it at Rochester. The Campus Club Connection, the Students’ Association’s online system for tracking the College’s student groups, lists more than 200 organizations, serving interests from cricket to ballroom dancing to Macintosh computers to environmental activism.
About two dozen also are recognized by the Department of Athletics and Recreation as club sports, where students who enjoy playing a sport can participate no matter their skill level.
“These are student-run organizations that provide leadership opportunities,” says Jane Possee, associate director of athletics. “Students take charge of their passion.”
Taking charge is crucial to the success of a club, organizers and advisors say. After nearly becoming inactive four years ago, the Equestrian Club’s new officers worked to increase membership and lead a riding renaissance. Now the club boasts about 40 members.
“The members of the club have really created a balance between competing and having fun,” says Celia Applegate, associate professor of history and advisor for the Equestrian Club. “Being a member of the club not only gives students an opportunity to connect with the Rochester community and see more of our area, but also connect with nature, as they form relationships with their horses.”
If there isn’t a current group that speaks to students’ interests, students are encouraged to start one. New organizations are required to have at least five to 10 prospective members, including one to serve as president and another to serve as business manager, a mission statement, a constitution, and a faculty or staff advisor.
Also important, says Emily Zametkin ’07, chair of the Students' Association’s committee that approves new clubs, are appeal and originality.
“Before giving our approval for a new club, we want to make sure that the club will attract a wide variety of students from the different class years, so the club can be carried on from year to year,” she says. “We want to ensure that the group leaders are committed and have fresh ideas. It’s very important that new clubs add something to campus. Overlapping organizations could compete with one another, so uniqueness is crucial.”
Once a club is approved, it receives funds from student government—only politically based clubs do not qualify for funding—and is free to advertise and hold an interest meeting for new members.
Starting and maintaining a club may be time-consuming, but the rewards last a lifetime, says Ben Keegan ’00, assistant director for club sports.
“It gives students a chance to find a social, competitive, and educational niche that they may not otherwise experience in the classroom,” Keegan says. “Those types of experiences and interactions are often what many students remember most 10, 20, or 30 years down the road. More often than not, these are activities that people continue to make a part of their lives as recreation, or perhaps even as a part of their careers.”