GAMBIER — Kenyon College is becoming a force to reckon with in the world of competitive equestrian sports. They finished the riding season in third place among all colleges in the region, competing as a virtual David among Goliaths. Only the University of Findlay and The College of Wooster placed above Kenyon this season. Incredibly, they did it with a little over a dozen competitive riders, six leased horses and only a couple of riders that have a serious history of showing.
“We’ve done remarkable this year,” said Kenyon College equestrian coach Erica Parnisari. “We compete against 11 other colleges. We’re so thrilled and I am so proud of our team this year. We are on a very tight budget. We do a lot of fundraising and work at the barn to make it all happen.”
Compared to colleges like the University of Findlay, which boast large equestrian teams of Notre Dame-like proportions, Kenyon appears tiny.
“(Kenyon) is an Equestrian Club,” said Parnisari, who boards the team horses and trains at Hickory Hills Farm on Ohio 229, west of Mount Vernon. “We have 30 members, 14 of which, compete on the team. Some of these other colleges, like Findlay, have very large equestrian programs with equestrian majors. Between Wooster and the University of Findlay, they are usually first or second.”
Parnisari, who is in her second year of coaching the club, sees Kenyon’s success as something that has built over the past two years, in a gradual way.
“Last year was the first year where we had momentum,” said Parnisari. “The kids wanted to show. They got excited about everything and it just built. They did pretty well last year — not as well as this year. We wanted to get better. We doubled the number of kids on our team this year. The existing members were so excited and it just grew. Last year, I didn’t even pay attention to the points. I felt like we were so small, we didn’t even have a chance. This year, I started paying attention and saw that we we’re doing real well.”