The equestrian team at Rider University is making some big strides.
Andrea Panno ’12
Team captain Cassie Thornton

Team captain Cassie Thornton

Passion is something that cannot be ignored or hidden. It cannot be blocked by barriers, and will always shine through. For junior Finance major Melissa Pruitte and junior Accounting and International Business major Emily Harris, riding horses is not only their gift, but their passion as well.

As committed members of the Rider equestrian team, one of the University’s non-varsity club sports, both Harris and Pruitte have excelled at riding in various competitions and are now representing the team as novice-level riders for the spring season.

Novice riders are categorized as experienced competitors who have accomplished a number of classes, such as walk/trot/canter. This division allows riders to compete over fences, rather than just flat classes.

“For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by horses. My dad used to own several of them and I am pretty sure my interest stemmed from that,” Pruitte said. “I stopped riding for a little while in high school, but before long, I was back and winning competitions that I never thought I would enter in the first place.”

Shortly after enrolling at Rider as a freshman in the fall of 2008, Pruitte suffered an ankle injury that put her out of commission for the season, and into the spring semester, as well. While she was unable to compete or ride, Pruitte managed to stay thoroughly involved with the team by supporting any horse show or competition the team held.

“My dedication and drive to succeed, along with my encouraging teammates and three coaches, have made me into the rider I am today,” Pruitte said. “I’m most thankful to my teammates and coaches for all of their help and support.”

Harris’ love of riding was put on hold for a semester, as well. Last spring, she qualified to go to Regionals for the Novice Flat, but was studying abroad during the competition. This semester, however, Harris has been training at least twice a week at the barn, and has had the opportunity to ride a different horse every time.

“I really liked the challenge of not being able to do anything to the horse before you ride it, except get on two minutes before your class and hope for the best,” Harris said. “It’s the most exciting experience and it makes you a better rider.”

Last fall, after moving up to the novice division, Pruitte earned first-place finishes in four different competitions, as well as second place in another. These achievements, along with her position as the club team’s co-treasurer, have made her an asset not only to her team, but to the University, as well.

According to the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, both Harris and Pruitte qualified for a regional competition, to be held on Saturday, March 19, at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pa.  The team will also host, along with Bucks County Community College and Princeton University, a horse show on Saturday, March 12, at Briarwood Farm in Flemington, N.J.

“I am very proud of the equestrian team for all they have accomplished in competition and as a team,” said team advisor Susan Christian, who is also Rider’s dean of Enrollment. “They continue to progress each year in their riding abilities but, more importantly, they are a talented group of students who have learned to manage a team, including the team’s finances, and have developed a strong bond, not only as teammates but friends, as well.”