Vanderbilt Equestrian Team (VET) was founded in the 1980s and became a competitive team in 1999. As a freshman, I met sophomore Maggie Bagwell. Maggie had spent her freshman year organizing and publicizing the team, while getting all the paperwork ready in order for VET to become a competitive team. Our team roster that first year consisted of only 12 riders. However, we somehow managed to be high-point team at our very first show. I will never forget the looks of complete surprise on the faces of the two past-year champion teams when the results were announced. Who was this new team and how could it be beating the two powerhouses in the Zone 5, Region 3 area?
With Maggie Bagwell as our student coach, we rode hard all year, getting an invitation to the University of South Carolina NCAA Invitational Tournament where we were fifth overall, beating varsity teams from all over the country. We finished the year having several girls qualify for Regionals and Zonals. Senior Brittany Harrison even won Nationals in the Intermediate Fences! After that successful first year, we have had girls qualify for the finals every year. There must be something special about the Intermediate Fences class, because I went on to win it my sophomore year. And last year, Julie Neumann placed ninth in the Cacchione Cup. We also have taken Vanderbilt to the international level, with two of our members competing abroad in the International Intercollegiate Association (IIEA) and Nations Cups.
From student coaches Maggie Bagwell and Julie Neumann with 12 riders, our roster has grown to 45 riders with Ginny Patton and me as the current student coaches. VET has thrived and accomplished so much, all under student coaching. This year we have three girls who have already qualified for Regionals, three riders in the High Point Rider standings, and one rider leading the Cachione Cup race. We are also currently the reserve champion team in the region. Our team practices at Hunter’s Court Stable (David Wright and Wren Ashley) and Brownland Farm (Sissy Anderton). As a club sport, with student coaches, we have certainly shown that being a competitive, student-run team is possible! We have made such an impact that the Vanderbilt Athletic Department is “pretty seriously considering varsity status,” according to IHSA National Secretary Jim Arragon.
USRiding.com/IHSA.com Intern, Mawghan McCabe is a senior at Vanderbilt University and competes in the Open Equitation on the Vanderbilt University riding team.