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Connecticut Girl Blazes Trail at a Southern School


2016/03/03





Connecticut native, Colleen Stimola, arrived at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) as a freshman last year and has already blazed a new trail for the university.  Knowing it was a Division 1 SEC School, Stimola assumed she could continue her lifelong passion of horseback riding after she got her first academic semester under her belt at Ole Miss.  But she discovered no horseback riding options were available at the school, and learned that Ole Miss was the only SEC school that did not offer an Equestrian Sports Team or Club to its students.  That needed to be changed!  She believed Ole Miss was not serving the extracurricular desires of many undergraduates, so she decided to start an Equestrian Team Sports Club at the college.

Stimola polled students on campus to gauge their interest level of horseback riding, and within a couple of weeks, forty potential members had signed up to join a new start-up Equestrian Sports Club Team.  The new Ole Miss Equestrian Team accepts male and female riders of all levels in either English or Western disciplines. 

Once Stimola knew there was student interest, she began completing the paperwork and administrative responsibilities of running a sports club at the university.  Next, she began researching and interviewing trainers who would be willing to work with the students, and who also had facilities and horses that could be used for lessons.  In addition, the trainers needed to be willing to enter and supervise Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) competitions with the team.

Last fall’s first semester for the brand new team was devoted to getting the team members riding regularly and feeling comfortable with their trainers:  Beanie Cone at Hunter’s Edge Stables in Memphis, TN for English, and Kevin McDavitt of McDavitt Stables in Senatobia, MS for Western.  Currently, the team members have to travel an hour by carpool to their respective barn facilities at least once a week for their lessons. 

This semester, Ole Miss made a big splash at its first two IHSA competitions, at Georgia College and Auburn University, taking fifth place at each event in competition against 13 other experienced teams, some of which are funded sports teams by their respective colleges.  This was an impressive start!  Stimola said, “I couldn’t have asked for better results than being one of the top five teams at our first two competitions!  Ole Miss team members looked professional, rode impressively, and had a wonderful time at these competitions.”

Stimola has further plans for equestrian sports at Ole Miss. Having on-campus facilities would catapult the riders’ abilities to a higher competitive level and could offer a community outreach program to greater Oxford.  “We devote a lot of time to our sport,” says Stimola.  “If we had stables on campus, team members could ride more often, and many students who own their own horses could bring them to the school to help offset stable costs. 

“We are fortunate to be adjacent to over 29 acres of Rowan Oak, the home of William Faulkner, one of America’s most celebrated writers and Nobel Prize laureate who attended Ole Miss.  Faulkner was a horseback rider, too, and had stables, a barn, paddocks, and pastures on his property adjacent to Bailey’s Woods.  We’d love to see his legacy brought back to life by bringing horses to those facilities again.” 

Unfortunately, that dream costs money, but fund raising activity has been started to make it a reality. The Equestrian Team would appreciate any university backing, private donations, or support to pursue on-campus riding facilities.  “I would love to see horseback riding offered as an elective course to students at Ole Miss,” suggests Stimola, “along with having stall space for the Oxford Mounted Police, and a therapeutic student-run, community outreach program for Oxford area children with Special Needs.”

“Ole Miss has allowed our Sports Club to flourish, and it has been a great learning experience for the members who share a common interest in horseback riding.  We’d like to see the team grow, perhaps including Junior level and Varsity level competition teams, and get on-campus facilities built to honor Faulkner’s legacy and make riding more convenient for Ole Miss students,” concluded Stimola.  This trailblazing sophomore student may just make it happen!
Anyone interested in contributing to the Ole Miss Equestrian Team projects may go to this link: 

https://www.gofundme.com/olemissequestrian or send directly payable to the team at:  Ole Miss Equestrian Team c/o Colleen Stimola; Crosby Hall – Pak Mail; 115 Northgate Drive, PMB #3730; University, MS   38677
 

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