When it comes to sports teams on Taylor University’s campus, rarely does riding horses cross anyone’s mind. However, just off campus at Rope This Ranch, the Taylor equestrian team looks to ride its way to victory throughout the school year.
The team, led by Jenny Schamber, has stayed affiliated with Taylor for quite some time. Schamber, a lifelong Upland resident, found love for horses at a young age.
“My mom grew up (riding horses), but did not acquire her first horse until the year before I was born,” she said. “My mom was great about getting me to lessons and clinics. She didn’t know I was going to take (it) as seriously as I took it.”
Even before Schamber’s mother, her grandfather has kept horses within the family. Schamber said the incredible animal has been a key piece of her and her family’s life.
Schamber did not go to Taylor for her college education. Instead, she attended Ball State and rode for their equestrian team all four years. She specialized in English and Western – two different styles of riding with different saddles to complement. Schamber qualified for nationals in three of her four years at Ball State.
“The way that intercollegiate horseback riding (is done) is that you draw a horse right before you go into class,” she said. “It could be a horse that you’ve rode at a prior show, or it could be a horse that you’ve never seen before. You really learn how to communicate and quickly adapt to different horses.”
Schamber said those four years at Ball State were pivotal in shaping her connection with horses, as she had to learn about so many different aspects of the animal so quickly.
Fast-forward to 2023, and this coming January will mark 22 years of Rope This Ranch being in business. There has been a lot of good that has come out of the team. Schamber looks to continue growing in her horsemanship abilities while learning to accept wins and losses now as a coach.
Schamber pushes her riders to improve. One of those riders is freshman Gwyneth Clark, who was fortunate enough to receive one month of free riding lessons as a birthday gift from her parents.
Clark never looked back.
“(The lessons) were quite expensive,” she said. “There was a seriousness about it because I was personally invested.”
At around 15 years old, Clark became more disciplined in the sport and now most commonly rides bare-back. Her most unique skill is running up to the horse, grabbing the mane and swinging herself around before she can fully start riding. Since being on the team, she has learned more about the technical habits of riding, some of which may not be in the bare-back discipline.
Clark enjoys the show days, which are typically on Saturdays and Sundays. The riders wake up early to see the horses warm up to their tendencies, which typically helps the riders get more comfortable as well. The riders then draw the name of a horse at the event, which is provided by the host.
Clark further enhances her abilities as a rider while being a teacher’s assistant for Taylor’s beginning horsemanship class. She enjoys seeing the growth and confidence of the students riding and gave high praise to Schamber.
“She has a fearless approach,” Clark said. “She challenges her riders a lot to do new things that they have never done before. She is also very chill; I love how relaxed she is.”
The team’s next tournament is Nov. 11 and 12 at Kolawa Equestrian Center in Atlanta, IN, hosted by IUPUI. Hopefully, the team can giddyap their way to victory.