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Developing mental toughness as an NCAA equestrienne

By Cameron Crenwelge for APHA


APHA has partnered with the National Collegiate Equestrian Association to help support the advancement of Women’s Equestrian on the path to National Collegiate Athletic Association championship sport status. NCAA equestrienne Cameron Crenwelge shares her insight about competing on a varsity equestrian team:

Your horse. Your trainer. Your saddle. These are just a few things that most exhibitors will bring with them to competitions. After you enter the world of collegiate riding, however, you’ll have to wave goodbye to almost everything that gave you a sense of comfort in the arena previously.

The first time I walked into the TAMU Equestrian barn, I was struck with the thought that the only thing that I had brought with me from my previous program was my spurs. I was dressed from hat to boot in team-issued gear. The faces of the horses that peeked out of the stall doors were strangers to me, as were most of the girls who made up my team. For a little bit, the equestrian team felt like some sort of alternate universe. The technical aspects were the same: I was still riding a horse, in a saddle, through a pattern while someone critiqued me. But despite this, nothing felt right—even the way that the saddle squeaked seemed somehow alien.

I do not know many people who thrive in uncomfortable situations, and before spending time on an equestrian team, that list definitely did not include me. But as the faces around me slowly became more and more familiar, I began to realize that I—like my fellow teammates—started to welcome and thrive in this discomfort—something I never thought I’d do. I began pushing myself harder in workouts, taking on more challenging course loads and traveling independently.

Before riding on a college team, I was my own worst enemy when I walked into the ring. As a result of my team and our incredible coaching staff, I have become my own biggest supporter. This mindset has impacted my riding ability more than anything else. Yes, the strength drills, workouts and constant coaching have undoubtedly improved my riding ability from a physical point of view, the ultimate transformation came in the terms of my mental state. I’ve learned the feeling of butterflies in my stomach as I walk into the ring is a privilege denied to many, so I have decided to be thankful for these butterflies rather than dreading them. NCEA riding has been the most transformative experience in my life thus far, and I am privileged to be able to look forward to a few more years of butterflies.


Cameron Crenwelge is a sophomore member of the Texas A&M University Equestrian Team. She is from Comfort, Texas, and competes in NCAA horsemanship events. Learn more about competing in Varsity Equestrian at collegiateequestrian.com.



 [Reprinting all of part of this story is permitted, so long as credit is given to the Paint Horse Journal and a link provide back to apha.com.]

About APHA
The American Paint Horse Association is the world’s second-largest international equine breed association, registering more than a million horses in 59 nations and territories since it was founded. APHA promotes, preserves and provides meaningful experiences with Paint Horses.