July 26, 2017

12 reasons to ride at Mount Holyoke

Maddy Skrak ’18

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Riding at Mount Holyoke is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. It’s a community. It’s friends. It’s a team. And most importantly, it’s pursuing a passion alongside an inspiring group of people who share your love for horses. Here are 12 more reasons why.

Victor, the star of the national anthemSabrina Fox ’18, shown with her mother Anne Fox, rides Viktor during the national anthem.Sabrina Fox 18, shown with her mother Anne Fox, rides Viktor during the national anthem.

12. Our school horse sweethearts

Some short, some tall, some quirky — our 40 horses are full of lessons to teach. There’s Sadie, an angel who will jump anything you point her to. Stanley is the Paso Fino with the smoothest trot. Noah — you’d better hold on! Viktor is the star of the national anthem at shows. Scarlett is a top-level dressage horse, but good luck getting her bridle on without a bag of treats.

Mountain Day 2016Mountain Day 2016

11. Climbing as a team on Mountain Day

You’ll finally be at a place where it’s cool to walk around in your riding clothes. With 43 of your newest friends/teammates.

10. We take workouts seriously.

As varsity athletes, riders are treated as seriously as Mount Holyoke’s other impressive athletes. We have mandatory workouts twice week, led by team officers in the Lyon’s Den (bottom floor of the Kendall Sports and Dance Complex) or outside, and often mix cardio with weights. We’ve been known to throw in some yoga and Zumba, too.

Coaches Morgan Lynch and C.J. Law
Coaches Morgan Lynch and C.J. Law

9. Working with some of MHC’s smartest and finest

We have two of the best coaches in the entire world. C.J. Law and Morgan Lynch work endless hours to make us perform at our best. They teach us lessons in and out of the arena — most of which go far beyond riding. 

8. Wednesday night team meetings

This is a weekly chance to talk about news, team responsibilities, jobs at our home shows, workouts and team bonding. It’s also a time for C.J. to share hysterical stories from her 33 years of coaching at Mount Holyoke.

7. Secret psych-ups

Imagine playing a semester-long game of Clue where you have no idea who is pepping you up before every show: bags of candy, hand-made cards, balloons, decked-out lawn chairs, etc. Some of the best things I’ve received include a unicorn pillow pet and a mug that I actually used this morning! The big reveal — who is my secret psych-up? — happens at a team banquet.

Dashing through the snowDashing through the snow

6. Every season is riding season.

This is true even if you come from a warm place like, say, New Mexico. You will quickly learn that “hotties” (hand and foot warmers) are your new best friends in the arena during winter. We always pop them in our boots and in our gloves to keep warm.

Cross-country day!
Cross-country day!

5. Famous lessons and a magic bag of tricks

Get ready for wildly creative lessons. We exercise on trampolines to improve coordination and half-halts in the saddle. We make a fist on the reins and place small rocks atop our hands to keep them still. We gallop around the arena in jockey stirrups to practice moving the horses forward and opening their strides. We practice “renvers,” an all-time favorite, during which C.J. bellows in a funny voice to work the horses laterally. We jump in the giant cross-country field behind the stable, a fun adventure full of photo ops. Sometimes we even ride bareback, western or dressage. And within C.J.’s black canvas bag of tricks? Creations like “the goggles,” which keep you from looking down. And the “uniboob” helmet, which forces you to stay off the horse’s neck. And the “rubber band,” which keeps your hands still. 

4. Amazing riding alumnae

They are empowered, talented and inspiring — with awesome professional and professional riding careers to boot. They come to visit all the time, especially before shows. They are a testament to one of C.J.’s favorite sayings: “You’ll make friends for life.”

In flightIn flight

3. Traveling as a team

Seeing nationally ranked competitors at the tournaments of champions keeps us focused and aware of how hard we need to train throughout the season. But traveling also means having way too much fun, often in airports. Like the time we wore our helmets and hairnets. Or the time we made a full-out music video on the electric walkway (“magic carpet”).

IHSA Nationals, 2016IHSA Nationals, 2016

2. One word: Nationals

It’s an honor to be on a team that almost always makes it to this prestigious competition, where you get a chance to compete at the top level. I cannot imagine a better feeling than seeing a friend do her personal best at the IHSA “big time.” We also have more fun than anyone out there. We won the 2017 Spirit Contest, an honor we largely attribute to our coach dressing up as Pokey, the talking orange pony from the Gumby and Pokey claymation duo. At the IHSA Nationals in 2016, C.J. debuted her very own music video to Adele’s song “Hello” — pink wig, fur cloak and all — on the jumbotron for all to see.

Shiny riding boot

1. No rider mounts alone — or without super shiny boots.

Every time you mount the horse you drew before a class, our “blue army” — team members in our blue coats and gear — will be at your side. Whether it’s at a home show, an away show, a tournament, regionals, zones or nationals. And thanks to pre-show boot-polishing parties, our equipment always shines like the top of the Chrysler Building. 

Ride and shine with us. Visit us!

Maddy Skrak ’18 hails from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She majors in Spanish and is pursuing a Nexus concentration in journalism, media and public discourse. As a member of the varsity hunter seat team, she has ridden in open flat and intermediate fences — and in her senior year will move up as an all-around open rider. Skrak is the marketing content development assistant for the Office of Communications and Marketing and is an Equestrian Fellow for the Office of Admission. Her summer 2017 internship with the Chronicle of the Horse magazine was funded by the College’s Lynk initiative. The fall of her junior year, Skrak studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain, where she fell in love with Europe and significantly improved her Spanish skills — which she will continue to do her senior year when she lives on the Spanish Language Floor. Among her favorite ways to pass time on campus, beyond riding? Staring at the stunning fall foliage, hiking and running around the Pioneer Valley, and buying ginger ice cream from Atkins Farms Country Market!
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