Riding at the Collegiate Level: Madeline Claman on Her Accomplished Season
Photo courtesy of the Skidmore Athletics website
The Skidmore College riding team enters the 2018-2019 season with eight national championship titles, hoping to secure a ninth this year. Madeline Claman ’19, from New Jersey, gives insight on what it feels like to be a part of such an accomplished team.
Besides being a psychology major with a minor in Italian, Claman rides five times a week, accompanied by gym workouts twice a week. She says that traveling to and from shows take up the majority of her day; but, Claman doesn’t let this big time commitment stop her from doing the sport she loves.
“Riding is such a positive outlet for me so even though it takes up a lot of time, I am happy I get to do it so often,” explained Claman.
When asked how it feels to compete at the collegiate level, Claman expressed how extremely lucky she is to be riding in college, saying “I didn't really have the opportunity to compete in high school, so being part of the team here has been such a great experience for me.” Before every show, she tries to remain confident, while acknowledging that she still has a lot to improve on.
“This is definitely something I am constantly negotiating before competing, [since] horse showing is a performance as much as it is a sport,” explained Claman. “Confidence is also evident in body positioning on the horse, which is in part what we are judged on, but it is important not to be overly confident either. I think keeping in mind that no win is ever guaranteed allows me to put my best into every ride.”
Although she didn’t show during her first year on the team, Claman said she spent a lot of time working to improve her riding, which has definitely paid off as Claman received first place in the Walk-Trot-Center at the first IHSA Zone 2/Region 3 show (Oct. 14) and first place in the same class at the Hartwick College show (Oct. 29). The Skidmore riding team won their two latest shows (Nov. 3-4), with Claman receiving second in her class in the Walk-Trot-Canter on Saturday and winning her class for the same event on Sunday.
Being part of a team that is more about individual competitions and placings — as is riding — has been special to Claman, who said she is “grateful to be a part of such a great group of girls who are so supportive of each other despite different levels and backgrounds.”
Aside from the group she competes with, the best part of riding for Claman is how rewarding the sport has been. She has “learned so much about myself as a person through my experiences riding and being around horses, which of course are the other best part! I feel fulfilled knowing I am working hard toward my goals and that I get to spend time with such amazing animals.”
Despite this, she does think that the horses are the hardest part about riding: “horses can have off days just like humans can, but it is still your job as a rider to work through that and make it look easy even when it's not. Learning how to adapt to challenges like these has made me a more versatile and, overall, better rider.”
Even after ten years, Claman has still not grown out of her “pony phase.” Her love and passion for horses and riding — plus helpful trainers along the way — keep her gait sturdy, and the win in sight.