Equestrian club moves to Green, gets new coach

Tom Klatt

Caitlin Barney, sophomore deaf education major, rides Jack at Firestone Equestrian Center where the Kent State Equestrian Team practices twice a week. Barney has been riding for six years, and this is her second year on the team. AMANDA SOWARDS | DAILY KE

Credit: Steve Schirra

Down a rocky one-way road on the outskirts of Green sits the Firestone Equestrian Center. The 290-acre facility is owned by the YMCA and is the new home of the Kent State Equestrian team.

The center is run by the club’s first-year equestrian coach Shellie Davis.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s my life. I would never make it in a cubicle.”

Davis has trained all 26 horses at the center, most of them coming off of racetrack injuries, donations or tax write-offs.

“I find that those horses are better; they try hard to please you,” said Caitlin Barney, a sophomore deaf education major and one of the more experienced of the nine riders on the team.

Davis has been training and teaching riders for 15 years and riding as a professional for 20. She rode at Murray State from 1996 to 1997.

“My relationship with my coach made me want to coach. The way he pushed me further,” Davis said.

She holds practices on Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons, mainly inside the stable. Most of the practice consists of the team riding the horses in circles at different speeds, working on different things. Equestrian riding is done in two different styles, English (most commonly seen), and Western dress.

Kent State’s team is part of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. Teams in their Region 1 division are Ohio State, Ohio, Kenyon, Denison, Akron, Lake Erie and Wooster.

“I just wanted to ride horses,” Barney said about joining the team. “If there was no team, I would have found a barn nearby to ride at.”

Barney started riding when she was 11 years old. Most members of Kent State’s team are not as experienced as she is. The team accepts beginning and intermediate riders.

The team’s first competition under its new coach is from Oct. 28 to 29 in Akron.

“The thing I like about (the team) is their attitude,” Davis said. “They’re not afraid to recognize their weaknesses. The girls are good riders. We’ll do as well as we can.”

The team members have been pleased with their new coach’s hands-on approach.

“She stays standing the whole practice,” Barney said “We love our coach. She’s great.”

As well as coaching the Equestrian team and running the stables at Firestone, Davis works with at-risk youth at Pegasus Farm. She teaches therapeutic riding for kids that are “in trouble,” as she puts it. The team accepts anybody interested in riding. For any questions about the Kent State Equestrian team, e-mail [email protected].

Contact sports reporter Tom Klatt at [email protected].