SHELBURNE - It’s still dark when Jerrica Swim, 21, neatly dresses in her breeches and show shirt.
She meets the rest of her Acadia equestrian team on campus.
The team is made up of 12 of the best riders and Swim is one of them.
The team competes against other university teams in the Atlantic Intercollegiate Equestrian League and performs in competitions in hunt seat equitation classes at a variety of levels, from walk-trot beginners to over fences.
The league is both competitive and challenging and while Swim couldn’t take her own horse from home to university, she gets the chance to ride once a week to prepare for shows.
“It’s nice to be a part of a community of students that are as horse crazy as I am,” says Swim.
And she is one of the best.
She recently just placed first in the walk-trot category for her team.
Each class competes. After their run placements for each are announced and the champion school is determined. Each ribbon is worth a certain number of points with first place being worth the most points.
Unlike some equestrian sports, the horse is not known to the rider until just before they compete.
“What makes these shows unique is that it is partly based on the luck of the draw,” says Swim. “Perhaps you draw a well-trained horse or perhaps you draw the stubborn pony.”
Either way, the rider doesn’t know anything about the horse besides what you see it do in the warm-ups.
Swim and her team arrive at the stable and soon other teams start to arrive.
The horses are groomed and saddled and the warm-up riders take out the horses.
This is where Swim gathers the information she might need to win.
“You learn to watch everything and analyze every step the horse takes and every move the warm-up rider makes,” she says. “It’s exciting and a little nerve-wracking.”
She says she has seen riders fall off their horse in competition and one girl just barely hold on.
“It is a true test of riding ability.”