The morning of April 21st was chilly, a stark contrast to the humidity that would take its place as the day progressed. At 9:00 a.m., members of the Delaware Valley University Western Equestrian Team trudged across campus, crossing over train tracks and marched their way to the Equestrian Center on the far side of campus.
The seemingly normal Friday marked the beginning of two major university events: The start of A-Day 2023 and the first ever Western Horse Show to occur on the university’s campus.
The hour leading up to the anticipated 10:00 a.m. start time was a blur of people, with both English and Western equestrians moving throughout the barn to prepare horses and riders for the day’s event. Between tacking up and grooming horses, participants could be seen sweeping aisles and tossing hay. The roar of a tractor can be heard as the indoor arena was dragged, the dirt smoothed over as a fresh start for the show.
Eventually, horses from the Western team’s home barn, Saddlebrook Equestrian Center, arrived and were loaded off the trailer and tacked up for the show. As riders finished zipping their chaps and bucking their helmets, all horses and riders
were ushered into the indoor arena. A crowd of supportive family, friends, and curious onlookers had formed on the far side of the arena, watching as riders started warming them up.
As the warm up concluded, the first horsemanship class of riders was able to find and mount their horses. As they entered the arena, the first ever Delaware Valley University Western horse show had begun.
Freshman Kyla Jones was one of the riders in this first class, riding a favorite, Delaware Valley University’s very own “Poppy.” While
Poppy is generally used for the English riding on campus and is mainly a walk-and-jog only horse, for this special occasion, she dawned a Western saddle and picked up the pace in a walk, jog and lope class. Jones said she had “A ton of fun!” and was able to use this show as a learning opportunity for the future.
As the third and final horsemanship class of the day started entering the ring, senior Lindsey Zajac was amongst the riders. Lindsey was riding Pita, a former Saddlebrook Equestrian Center horse that was purchased by the university and now lives at DelVal. Lindsey was thrilled to get to ride her again. In her four years on the team, Lindsey wasn’t too hopeful on the idea of a Western show ever occurring on campus, but said she was glad there finally was.
“It was cool to see the horses from home on campus,” Zajac said. Zajac was also given the opportunity to perform a ranch riding demonstration after the horsemanship classes ended. The culture shock between the riding disciplines was extremely evident after the demonstration.
“When I went upstairs to get changed, someone came up to me and said ‘What’s with the chaps?’ ”
Zajac said that the show was a good first step, and there was a lot to be learned and plenty of space for future improvements in the years to come. Overall, she said, the show was a huge success, with numerous riders taking home first place ribbons and emerging with new memories.
The other riders agreed that this show was a great way to end their show season, and the start of a hopeful and exciting future for the Western equestrian team.