Polo, a program of the Department of Animal Science, has been a tradition at the University of Connecticut since 1969. The University of Connecticut is home to extremely successful men’s and women’s polo teams. The club has won four national championships in a row (10 in total) and has had many players go on to play professionally. The team plays against 25 other intercollegiate programs, such as Yale, University of Virginia, Cornell and Skidmore, and various other polo clubs. Team members also assist in teaching polo lessons to the community. During the spring semester, the teams compete in eastern regionals for a chance to qualify for the national competition. Over the years, UConn has become well known for its successful polo team polo team. What many don’t know is the entire scope of the animal science equine program on the UConn campus.
The Equestrian Team consists of 34 members who are selected through tryouts and the horse practicum each year. Students compete at all skill levels and earn points individually and for the team. If students earn enough points throughout the year, they are able to advance and compete in regionals, zones and nationals. At UConn, students ride different horses during lessons so they are prepared to ride different horses at competitions. Two shows a year are hosted at the UConn facilities.
The Dressage Team consists of approximately 15 riders who are selected through tryouts and the horse practicum each year. The team members compete in eight shows every year as well as regionals and nationals. The team won the region B division in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and advanced to nationals as a team in 2016, where they placed eighth in the nation.
The Western Team is selected each year through tryouts and the horse practicum. They compete in western horsemanship and reining classes in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. Riders compete for their own points while earning points for their team, as well. During the regular season the western team competes against many colleges throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts. Riders and teams that advance past the regional level have the chance to compete nationwide later in the season. Last season, over half of the team qualified for regionals at the University of Massachusetts and UConn was the third place team in the region. Riders also qualified for regionals and nationals and travelled all across the country to compete.
The UConn Morgan Drill Team has been promoting the Morgan horses of UConn since 1987. They perform using patterns, costumes and music at various events. The team performs in English and Western using UConn Morgans that are regularly used in lessons, teaching and breeding programs. The members of the team come from a variety of academic backgrounds. The team has performed at events such as the Hebron Fair, Morgan Shows, Intercollegiate Polo nationals, and the Equine Affair Morgan Breed Program.
The Morgan Horse Show Team is selected each show season to represent the UConn Morgans at various Morgan Shows throughout New England. The students that participate must have knowledge of the breed show ring experience and be employed at the horse barn during the summer months. The team is under the direction of John Bennett, the UConn Horse Unit Supervisor.
The Equine Club strives to unite all equine enthusiasts, regardless of their experience level with horses. The club plans talks, demonstrations and equine movie nights and hosts trips to the Belmont Park racetrack and Aqueduct Racetrack. They hope to further members’ education and knowledge about the horse industry.
Without the Department of Animal Science, these victories would not be attainable. The department cares for all the horses and uses its resources to make these teams and clubs possible.
By Erin Norris