Clip-clop, clip-clop – the distinct clapping of horses’ hooves pierces the spring air as Wilbur, Ozzie, Barney and Merlin make their way down Campus Walk.
On their backs, four UMW seniors ride tall and proud, giddy with excitement to be on the Fredericksburg campus with their four-legged “teammates” for a one-of-a-kind graduation walk.
UMW Riding mates Alexandra Perez, Emily Dunn, Catalina Oliver and Kimberly Counts got the chance to ride their horses from the Bell Tower to the Anderson Center as a final salute to their time at Mary Washington before graduation this week. Having each spent more than half of their college careers on the riding team, the seniors couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate UMW – and share their passion with the school.
“We’ve had the idea to ride on campus together ever since we made the team,” said Counts, a French major who considered the festivity to be her graduation walk. She’s leaving for the 2016 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships this week, where she’ll compete for the Cacchione Cup for the second year in a row, hoping to move up from her 10th-place finish in 2015.
For these equestrians, it wasn’t just about the cross-campus horse ride – it was about including their beloved steeds in their graduation celebration.
“We got to bring what we love – horses – to the place we love – UMW,” said Perez, a sociology major who explained how off-campus practices put a physical divide between the horses and the school.
Though it was ‘dead week’ at UMW, when campus clears out after exams, students, faculty and staff were eagerly waiting to greet the riders as they made their way past Ball Circle. President Rick Hurley came out of his office in George Washington Hall to congratulate the riders on their graduation, and surprised them by hopping on Merlin.
Oliver, a historic preservation major, and Dunn, a business administration major, agreed that the ride was likely going to be the most memorable experience of their four years at UMW.
The event marked the first time that UMW Riding Coach Teresa Seay has seen the horses brought to campus in her seven years with the team.
“This just shows us how much support we have from the athletic department and campus,” she said. “We got to make a dream come true for four seniors.”
Jeff Silver says
Reminds me of my time a UMW many years ago, when this wasn’t allowed. I still hold the memories I made dear – and fondly think back to how much simpler life was at that age.