Abbie Hunt Contributing Writer
Editor’s Note: Given the current pandemic and saturation of the news with COVID-19 related stories and updates, we chose to publish this club-centered piece, despite the campus closure, to give our readers a break from stressful content and show what there is to look forward to when campus reopens.
The UMF Equestrian Club, a club open to all students, offers students a way to melt worries and bring focus. Most members of the club are passionate about horses and love spending time with animals.
President Jess Cloutier, who started the club, has years of experience working with horses and animals, works as a riding instructor on a farm, and is passionate about riding horses. “School can be a really stressful place but farming and being on a horse is simple,” she said. “When you ride a horse it’s not easy to forget they are a living, breathing, feeling animal… you owe them your patience and compassion. It doesn’t matter what’s due in biology, it matters what’s happening right now to that animal who trusts you to take care of it.”
Members of the club can ride and spend time with other animals at Martin Woods Farm in Starks, which is owned by one of UMF’s professors, Dr. Martin. “When I am at the barn I don’t have to stress or think about anything else; I can be in the moment,” Farrin said. “Horses tell you how it is, there is no masking your feelings from them and they reflect it back to you. In this sense I feel that I am my true self when at the barn around the horses and riding.”
Jordan Farrin, Vice President, became a member when Cloutier asked for her help starting up the club. Farrin has experience with horses and has kept her horse at Martin’s Farm before. “I envisioned the club as a safe, fun community where college students can come enjoy barn life, and learn to ride horses; a skill that many people never get the chance to learn,” she said.
Suzanna Dibden, a newer member of the club who joined in October, loves animals and enjoys being outside, but she had never ridden a horse before. Dibden met Cloutier through their Positive Psychology class, where they connected on their conversations about the mental health benefits of being outdoors and bonding with an animal. Dibden then decided to join the Equestrian Club to step out of her comfort zone and try something new. “I like spending time outdoors and getting to know the horse,” said Dibden. “It’s a really special thing to communicate with an animal and to get to know their unique personalities.”
The club rides twice a week at Martin Woods Farm. Everyone is welcome to go ride during those times, but it is not required. “We try to work with everyone’s busy schedules,” Cloutier said. Besides riding, the club hosts bonfires and relay races, which typically don’t involve horses, but just farm interaction. If anyone is interested in joining the club, Cloutier is open to students reaching out to her through email.
Even though not everyone enjoys going to the farm to ride horses, the club also offers a safe place to escape the business of life. “Sometimes club members just come out to brush a pony, or hold a bunny,” Cloutier said. “If anything the entire club wants people to feel welcomed at the farm to exist as they are. Anyone is welcome, everyone is welcome.”