Tech Equestrian Club to be honored by APD

Recently, the Tech Equestrian Club found a way to distinguish itself in the Atlanta community as well.

On Feb. 24 at 12 p.m., the Atlanta Police Department (APD) will be making seven members of the club: Gillian Newberry, Meg Russell, Megan Harris, Eden Smith, Rachel Cornelius, Kristy Stengard and Claire Campbell honorary members of the Mounted Patrol for their help with the unit’s horses.

For the past few months, these girls have been going out to the unit’s barn, located near the Atlanta Zoo and Turner Field, to exercise the unit’s horses.

The Mounted Patrol is a key part of the police department and is especially good for crowd control at events like parades and outdoor festivals. They also patrol the parks around the city and even a few neighborhoods. Keeping the horses in good care is a critical element for the patrol’s functioning ability.

“There are 15 to 16 horses and 14 officers,” said Stengard, IsyE ‘09 and club president, “when the officers go out, they leave behind 6 to 10 horses.”

These horses need to stay in shape by exercising almost every day, which is where the Tech equestrian club comes in.

The members try to go out to the police department barn two to three times a week, and at least one rider is there every day of the work-week.

“We groom them, tack them, stretch them, and then exercise them by putting them through their paces,” said Stengard.

According to Stengard these are some of the most well groomed horses she’s ever encountered.

Occasionally, the girls have gotten to go out on the streets with the officers, though not to patrol.

“They still have a few horses who spook easier,” said Stengard, and they need to become accomodated to where the officers will need to take them. They usually just take them around the surrounding area near Turner Field but, it is enough experience for the horses to get acquainted with street riding.

Like many exceptional opportunities, the chance to help the APD arose rather spontaneously. One of the club members ran into an officer of the mounted patrol while working at her second job.

The APD had had to fire their former exercisers, and when the Tech Equestrian Club came up the idea fell into place.

“Right now we just have the higher level riders going out there,” said Stengard.

Because the club has members of all riding levels, the less experienced ones could have been more hindrance than help. Next year, though, they plan on opening the opportunity to all members through a kind of big sister-little sister program.

The club has two types of members: club riders and team riders. The club riders are part of the club solely for recreation and the team riders are members of the club to compete. The club has instructors in both the Western and English disciplines. Most people probably recognize Western riding over English; it was developed by American cowboys who needed a different style saddle to be able to efficiently rope animals while English riding comes from European military riding form. English riding also includes jumps.

Even with these accomplishments, fifteen years after its founding, the club is still in its “growing pains stages,” as Stengard says, who is now club president.

The members who do go certainly appreciate the closeness of the ADP’s barn.

The two barns that they use for the club are about forty-five minutes away.

“Riding is a big time commitment. We have to get out there, ride, get back, shower. You really have to block off four to five hours when you’re planning it,” said Stengard.

Even so, the club has about 20 competitive riders in addition to several non-competitive ones, and this upcoming publicity from the ceremony on Feb. 24 brings hope to the club members that the honors will garner the campus’ attention and maybe with that the potential of new riders.

According to Stengard, the arrangement with the Mounted Patrol Unit will continue indefinitely, establishing a new way for Tech students to offer their skills to the Atlanta community.

The team riders compete through the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (ICHSA) in both Western and English styles. Last year, despite being one of the smaller entrants, they came in fourth overall for Western style and fifth overall for English style.