How do students at Taylor cope with being away from animals and pets?
For senior public health major Elizabeth LaMar, the answer to this question is quite simple: joining the equestrian team.
Growing up on a farm caused LaMar to fall in love with animals, especially sheep and horses.
Life at Taylor can be difficult for LaMar at times because she is so far from her farm and the animals she loves and cares about.
“It is very hard being on a campus where no one can relate to things that were such a big part of your life,” LaMar said.
As a kid, LaMar participated in 4-H. She was also crowned fair queen during her junior year of high school. So, to be taken away from her animals, who she considers to be parts of her family, was quite challenging.
When LaMar endured the college search process, Taylor was the first and last place she visited. During her visit, the Lord spoke in several tangible ways, making it clear to her that Taylor was where she was meant to be.
One of those ways was her discovery of the orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) minor at Taylor. Another was when she found out that the school has an equestrian team.
LaMar knew she wanted to join an equestrian team in college because growing up, her family had horses, and also, her mom’s experience on Michigan State’s equestrian team drew her to the sport. She also knew that participating in the sport would be a way to experience animal interaction in college.
During her freshman year at Taylor, LaMar joined the team.
“Being able to go to the barn was just such a good escape because I could actually do some physical labor to get the stress out and also be rewarded for that through showing,” LaMar said.
Equestrian team members participate in weekly lessons and ride with Jenny Schamber, the assistant director of the counseling center at Taylor.
LaMar has experienced a strong sense of community from her fellow teammates and from Schamber.
“We lesson every week, and then we have shows, and it looks different this year because of COVID,” LaMar said. “It looks the same, just a lot fewer (shows).”
During their competitions, team members ride English style and compete with various schools from their region.
The equestrian team members do not know which horse they will be riding until the day of the competition. This makes competitions a bit challenging since there are certain horses that are more cooperative than others.
“My freshman year, the first time I ever rode, I got a second in my class,” LaMar said.
This was extremely exciting for LaMar and a great beginning to her equestrian team involvement.
Not all of LaMar’s competitions have gone quite as smoothly as that of her freshman year. This year, she fell off her horse while in a competition, which is an automatic disqualification. LaMar surprised herself with a positive attitude through this small trip up and was able to get back up and finish with a smile on her face.
During her freshman year at Taylor, LaMar was elected co-president of the equestrian team. Later on, she learned that her co-president would not be coming back to Taylor, and thus, LaMar was left to lead the team on her own.
“(Being the team president) was super, super stressful, but super, super rewarding,” LaMar said.
The presidency was a difficult task for LaMar because the previous president graduated, and she had no one to ask questions to or seek advice from.
Through her presidential position and equestrian team involvement, LaMar learned the importance of relying on God to guide her life and that perfectionism is not always the answer.
“The Lord took (perfectionism) away from me because I need to rely on him, and also, I need to not worry about things so much because they don’t have to be perfect,” LaMar said.
Although she had a wonderful time full of growth and learning as the president, LaMar decided to step down for her senior year.
This spring, the equestrian team attended a competition at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in Terre Haute, Indiana. This was LaMar’s last equestrian competition ever, and she gratefully took home a second place ribbon.
As a graduating senior this fall, LaMar hopes to attend Ivy Tech to become a dental hygienist. If this plan does not end up working out, she expects to take a gap year through which she will help make her family’s farm more profitable.
Looking back on her equestrian team experience, farming history and involvement with the public health and orphans and vulnerable children programs at Taylor, LaMar thinks of her life goal.
“I want to have a farm that rehabilitates teenagers that are involved in both the foster care and juvenile delinquency systems,” LaMar said. “I want to do it through farm work, connecting to Christ through his creation.”