When driving down Tyron road, you would never think that two minutes away is 280 acres of farmland and stables. But when you turn off that busy road, things start to change. The pavement turns to dusty red dirt.
The gas stations and fast food signs disappear and you see open fields, trees and animals in pastures. When you turn off Tryon onto Dover Farms road, it feels like somehow within two minutes you left the hustling city of Raleigh and arrived somewhere where time seems to move slower.
This place, where time moves slower and the horses roam is MacNair’s Country Acres. This farm is where the NC State Club Hunt Seat Equestrian team practices. A team of 23 members trains and competes against various schools from our region including UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte, St. Andrews and East Carolina University. Our Hunt Seat team travels around the North Carolina area accumulating points “throughout the season to qualify for the regional, zone and national horse show.” To move up to the national level, they must compete against dozens of competitors from hundreds of schools across the country.
Even given the sheer number of people who ride Hunt Seat, there is still a common misconception that these competitions are as easy as just sitting on a horse. What this misconception fails to realize is the resilience and dedication that is required to be a competitor in Hunt Seat. Riders must not only have the physical strength to control the horse, but also the mental capacity to focus and compete in a fast-paced environment. Club president Alex Grobman explains, “it takes a huge amount of leg strength to be able to maintain a pace and guide a horse to jump.” To remain competitive, the team focuses on skills such as physical stamina, stability, balance and strength. The Hunt Seat team dedicates time every week not only to practice with the horses but also dedicates time to work on their “leg, arm and core strength” in Carmichael Complex.
People tend to think of Hunt Seat as an individual sport, but in reality, it is not. According to senior rider Maddie Jandrain you “have to trust the horse you are on to carry you safely. You have to be a team with your horse.” During competition, horses names are drawn out of a hat and assigned to riders. This forces riders to compete on horses they have never practiced with before, emphasizing the skill of the rider rather than the skill of the horse.
The mental strength to mount an unknown horse and trust it to trot and jump with you safely is nothing short of admirable. Alex explains “it’s a great way to level the playing field and really judge how the rider is able to handle an unfamiliar mount, but it’s not easy. The rider has to be extremely adjustable to be able to successfully navigate a strange horse around a course of fences.”
University Recreation is proud to have such a physically and mentally strong group of riders representing NC State. We encourage each of you to support the Hunt Seat team through your support of their competitions as well as attendance at fundraising events like percentage nights.
This year Nov. 12, the NC State Hunt Seat team will be hosting their first ever competition in Raleigh. Schools from across the state including UNC – Chapel Hill, East Carolina University, and St. Andrews will be coming to compete.