The Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) is celebrated for its commitment to artistic excellence. In pursuit of athletic excellence, student artists and designers regularly leave their studios, set aside their cameras or sketch pads, and head over to Hardeeville, South Carolina. Five miles outside of Savannah and across the state line, one of the nation’s top collegiate equestrian teams trains in a new, state-of-the-art complex— the Ronald C. Waranch Equestrian Center.
Fashion design student and member of the SCAD Equestrian Team, Paul Frederick (Hopewell, Virginia) talks about his collegiate experience and shares advice for young riders.
Gi: Paul, describe your experience riding for the SCAD Equestrian Team. Is it different from what you expected?
Paul: I am about to finish my sophomore year at SCAD. The past two years have been amazing; riding for the SCAD equestrian team is an amazing experience. I have had a great two years — from being the ANRC 2008 Individual Reserve National Champion, to being the 2008-2009 Novice Flat Regional Champion — riding at SCAD is all I expected and more. We are always working on something new to improve our performances, whether that be riding without stirrups or working out in the gym numerous times a week.
Gi: How have you grown as a rider since arriving at SCAD?
Paul: Riding with such a talented group of riders and trainers has really opened me up to great tips, techniques, and theories that have taken my riding to the next level. I’ve focused more on creating a soft and correct ride, making sure that I am using my position to the fullest to create the ultimate ride. Before coming to SCAD, I was teaching myself, and so I really focused on position, sometimes becoming too stiff. Since coming to SCAD, I have really felt myself transfer from a rider into a horseman.
Gi: You’ve had some incredible moments in your collegiate career so far. Is there one show, or lesson, or event that you stands out for you?
Paul: ANRC National Finals 2008. I was riding the outdoor course, the trip was going so well, it was amazing…the feeling of galloping across this huge field and jumping these naturally beautiful obstacles. After landing off the last jump, I could hear the crowd going crazy from across the field. I won that phase with a score around 97 out of 100. It’s such an amazing feeling when you perform as one with your horse.
Gi: I remember; The Chronicle of the Horse wrote about that show. You would not believe how excited we were when we opened the magazine, and there you were, meticulously turned out and in great form. Did you freak out when you saw the article?
Paul: I was very excited about being interviewed for The Chronicle of the Horse, since the CoH is the first magazine I read each week. It was so amazing to see a two page article dedicated to our team and our performances at ANRC.
Gi: The Ronald C. Waranch Equestrian Center blew me away when I visited there with my daughter last year. What struck me is how the barn smells like lemons; the SCAD barn is the cleanest, freshest barn I’ve ever been in. (Maybe that says something about the barns I frequent.) Do you ever miss the smells of, you know, horse poo and pine shavings?
Paul: Since being at SCAD I have learned so much about proper horsemanship. Every single thing that happens at the barn is for the well being of the horses. Having such a clean barn is just one of the things necessary for proper horsemanship. I can’t say that I ever miss the smell of manure.
Gi: Tell me about how you met George Morris and how his riding influenced you.
Paul: I was teaching myself, and I learned that George Morris was giving a riding clinic in northern Virginia. So I saved my money up and registered for the clinic. I worked really hard at the clinic, and Mr. Morris paid attention to my hard work and expressed interest in helping me further. Mr. Morris’ loyalty to the horse, the sport, and discipline for learning and teaching are an inspiration.
Gi: You said you are a self-taught rider. How did you learn to discipline and correct yourself? Are there any books or videos that you would recommend to other young riders who may not be in a formal lesson program, or pony club, but who are serious about their riding and want to reach the next level?
Paul: I started riding when I was seven. When I was fourteen, I decided that I wasn’t learning what I wanted to learn, and I started to teach myself. To be at the top of your game you have to familiarize yourself with the top levels of the sport. Go to horse shows and watch the top riders. Watch the warm-up ring and listen to tips and hints that can help you with your own riding.
I really respect George Morris and his teachings, if you can pick up any of his books or movies I would highly recommend it. Some other great books are Riding and Jumping by William Steinkraus, Anne Kursinski’s Riding and Jumping Clinic and Geoff Teall on Riding Hunters, Jumpers, and Equitation. I also love to find old out of print riding books from some of the masters, such as The De’Nemethy Method by Bertalan De’Nemethy and Learning to Ride, Hunt, and Show by Gordon Wright. These men and women are the ones who taught the master of today, and you can see that good riding hasn’t changed over the years.
Gi: Those are excellent book suggestions. I like your tips to watch top riders and listen to trainers in the warm-up ring, too. What else do you recommend?
Paul: Become a subscriber to Chronicle of the Horse, Practical Horseman, and the tons of other great publications out there to learn about the top levels of the sport. Join USEF and USHJA; they have great programs designed for young riders who want to reach the top levels. Last but not least, join 4-H. What a great organization to meet other horse lovers like yourself. Many professional horsemen whether trainers, nutritionist, blacksmiths, or vets are usually willing to talk to 4-H groups for little to no charge. This is a difficult sport to succeed in, but you will always get out what you put in.
Gi: How would you counsel high school freshmen who want to ride for a college team? What ought they be doing or thinking about now? Do you have any suggestions about how a rider can make a good match with a college team?
Paul: It’s never too early to start looking for a school. Find a school that offers the best academic program as well as the best riding program.
- Ask yourself what you want out of a riding program in college. Do you want to ride NCAA, or IHSA, or is showing outside of school important to you. Once you know the answer to these questions then your search for a school will be much easier.
- The best time to contact college coaches is in your junior or senior year of high school. Most coaches are going to want to see you ride, and the easiest way is to compile a video of your best riding on as many different horses. Just make sure to keep your video to a maximum of five minutes.
- Once you have decided on some schools, don’t be afraid to contact the coaches and ask any questions you have. You can also contact the school to get information sent to you as well.
- Riding in college can be overwhelming at first, but believe me; all of the coaches want to provide you with the best college riding experience ever. A great program to consider is the College Bound Invitational, I competed in this program, and it really taught me a lot about riding in college and helped me get connected with coaches around the country.
Gi: What are your hopes and dreams for the next few years? And after you graduate?
Paul: My main goal is to one-day represent the United States Equestrian Team in International Competition.