First UB equestrian member to compete in nationals
Rebecca Mayville qualifies for IHSA national competition
Rebecca Mayville, a senior math major, is the first Equestrian Club member to qualify for IHSA Nationals. She’s been riding horses since she was eight years old. Courtesy of Rebecca Mayville
As a 5-year-old, Rebecca Mayville would gaze out the window on long car drives, mesmerized by horses - tall, powerful and gentle creatures. She knew she had to ride.
After three years of begging her parents, she rode her first horse. And after three years of competing at the college level, she's made it to nationals.
Mayville, a senior math major, has been riding horses for over 12 years. This is her fourth and final year as a member of UB's Equestrian Club, and she's the first member in the team's history to qualify for the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) Nationals.
"It's so incredible that it's my final year and that I've finally qualified," Mayville said. "My mind is blown."
Mayville qualified for IHSA Nationals at the Zone 2 Championships at Fairfield Hunt Club in Westport, Conn. She competed against two of the best riding schools in the country, St. Lawrence University and Skidmore College - the two teams tied first for IHSA Nationals last year. Mayville said the competition was fierce.
"The riders on those teams know what they're doing," Mayville said. "They probably don't get as nervous, and they don't have to pay for anything because they're an actual team, whereas we're a club. They probably ride every day, whereas we can only afford to ride once or twice a week. Going in, I already knew I was behind."
The club began this year with a budget of $2,200.00, according to the Student Association's general ledger on the SA website. That money has already run out, according to Mayville. Although IHSA membership minimizes costs by providing horses at other schools along with saddles and bridles, members are currently paying out of pocket for coaching fees and showing outfits.
"We need to bring our own showing outfits, and that includes pants, boots, helmet and coat," Mayville said. "And a lot of horseback riding is judged on appearance, so you don't want to buy crummy stuff."
Veronica Sukati, a junior English and legal studies major who acknowledges the expenses of being in the club, is grateful riding is more affordable in Western New York than in New York City where she's from.
"I just love [horseback riding]," Sukati said. "It's a lot of exercise, patience and training yourself to be better and improve. It's a lot of setting goals. It doesn't just teach you to ride a horse, but it teaches you life lessons."
Beth Walkowicz, UB Equestrian Club's coach, is a strong believer in the virtues horseback riding can instill in riders. She said she has seen what the sport can do for college students, children and the disabled. She believes the sport can be as empowering as it is therapeutic.
"Like with any sport, and any art, you're never finished learning, and you can learn from every horse and horseperson you come in contact with," Walkowicz said in an email. "I'm old enough now to have worked with children from the time they began riding at six or seven years old, to now when they're in their teens. As a group, they're confident, polite, competitive but friendly, determined and responsible. I think a lot of that has to do with horses."
Walkowicz has known and coached Mayville for two years. She has noticed how increased confidence and dedication Mayville has put toward the sport has made her a more consistent and professional rider. She believes there's "no question" that Mayville will be in the top when she goes to IHSA Nationals.
Sukati is also confident that Mayville will succeed at the competition. She and the rest of Mayville's teammates are thrilled for her accomplishments.
"We're so proud of [Mayville]. She went through all these steps, competing against these big schools," Sukati said. "Even though we're a big group on campus compared to what we were, some of these groups of 50 or so girls she's up against are given money to ride for their schools. We're doing it all voluntarily. It's just so awesome that we finally have someone in nationals."
Mayville will be competing in Nationals on May 3 in Harrisburg, Pa. She says her achievements have taught her not to expect to win just because you want it.
"You have to work for it," Mayville said. "You have to train, you have to try hard. You have to be patient. You get exactly what you put into it."
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