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Equestrian club rebuilding after stables shut down

Alice Cook ’20, Abby Hanson ’21, Sydnee Brown ’20 and Naomi Clayton ’21 getting their hands dirty in the stables. Contributed photo.
Alice Cook ’20, Abby Hanson ’21, Sydnee Brown ’20 and Naomi Clayton ’21 getting their hands dirty in the stables. Contributed photo.

By Kelly Page

Right now, Equestrian Club and Drill Team, two closely-affiliated horse-centered groups on campus, are experiencing some changes to their activities. The barn where the club practiced, taught riding lessons and hosted events, known as Triple V Stables, located across 16th Avenue from the Golf Course, shut down recently under mysterious circumstances. According to Anna Emerson ’20, co-leader of both Drill Team and the Equestrian club, the barn notified the team that they would close on February 15 of this year.

Emerson and Molly Vornholt ‘19, the other co-leader of the club, say that there were escalating tensions within the barn, especially between the drill team coach Steph Patterson and the barn owner. Patterson was not available for comment by the time of publishing this article.

Emerson said, “Things were becoming increasingly tense, just in general, between everyone involved up there, between the boarders and the owners and the drill team. … It put both [Vornholt] and myself in a position where we kind of had to act as the middle between our coach and the barn owner.”

The barn’s shutting down was sudden and unexpected, and when Emerson and Vornholt asked the family who owns the barn to give details about why it was closing, Emerson said, “They said they were not legally required to, and so they didn’t. So there are theories, but we’re not gonna speculate.”

Now, Equestrian Club is focused on rebuilding. They have begun working with South Timber Creek Ranch in Marshalltown, and, Vornholt said, “The barn owner there has been super sweet, super nice and super understanding.”

However, Emerson added, “It was very challenging to kind of just uproot in the middle of the semester. It was also really hard to turn to members of the community, both the community at large and the Grinnell College community, and tell them that we couldn’t offer them the same opportunities that we had been, namely lesson opportunities, and so trying to restart lessons has been a huge focus and it’s been hard to get the ball rolling on that.”

Vornholt said, “Now we’re just focusing on getting reimbursements back up and running through SGA, I’m reducing my fee for lessons for students just to make that feasible for them and so we can get that going, so we’re trying to do what we can.”

Vornholt and Emerson say that the biggest difficulty with the relocation is figuring out how to maintain accessibility of Equestrian Club for those who do not have their own means of transportation to Marshalltown.

Vornholt said “We have a few of us on the team and on the club and stuff, we are certified with the College as college drivers, and that’s something we’re also trying to work out with [Director of Athletics] Andy Hamilton and [Assistant Athletic Director] Ben Cooprider. It’s a process and it’s something we have to clear with [the Student Government Association]. Like we’re not kind of doing this on our own, we’re working with as many people as we need to and can work with to get it done.”

The relocation may also cause fundamental changes to the nature of Equestrian Club, but Vornholt and Emerson said they are very excited about the new possibilities. Although the owners of four of the horses that Equestrian Club rode have moved them to South Timber

Creek, the club will have to get familiar with many new horses, some of which are young and barely trained.

Emerson said, “One of those [horses] is a yearling, … so I think that this would be a good opportunity to try and work with younger horses, more inexperienced horses, give people a chance to kind of broaden their experience… There are some really well-trained horses out there too, so it’s not like lessons are inaccessible to those who don’t have riding experience.”

Regardless of the difficulties that they have endured in the past few months, Emerson and Vornholt are hopeful for the future of Equestrian Club.

Vornholt said, “It gives our club an opportunity to reach back out to the college community and the greater community and just figure out where they want us to go from here. We don’t plan on going away, so we have to work on a way that people can still be interested. … If we can’t do drill team in the future, but we can do other competition teams, we would like to become a club sport, we still want to offer lessons, we’re just trying to figure out where we can expand to.”

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