A One and Only Perspective: Courtney Poist
Interview with the One and Only: Courtney Poist – 2017 Nationals Cacchione Cup Qualifier
Favorite One and Only Restaurant: Chucks Fish
Favorite One and Only Attraction: Lake Tuscaloosa
The University of Alabama is home an incredible football team, but they aren’t the only students that are championship bound this year. Courtney Poist, a 21-year-old Tuscaloosa native is competing in the 2017 Nationals Cacchione Cup today and representing the University of Alabama Equestrian Team. Courtney first got her start in Equestrian 15 years ago. Jumping from softball to basketball to gymnastics among others, she seemed to find equestrian by accident. After riding a pony at one of her friend’s birthday parties she fell in love. Her mom then took her to a farm for her first lesson. She said that “Ironically my coach now, Ashley Morrison, was the first person that got me started in this sport. When I was only 6 years old, Ashley taught me my first lesson at her farm, Westminster. Ever since then, Ashley has been my trainer, mentor, and now collegiate coach.” It seems to be working just fine for her as now she’s on one of the biggest collegiate stages for her sport! When Courtney was growing up she was quite the athlete.
The University of Alabama’s Equestrian Team has 16 horses that the athletes train on during the season. These horses are donated, leased or owned by the university. Of course, Courtney has a favorite and his name is Big. A “15-year-old, 17.2 hand bay Hanoverian gelding that was actually donated by the Auburn University’s Equestrian program.” If she has the choice, he’s her go-to pick because of his extreme athleticism, smartness, and response that allows for performing the more technical movements. The facility the University leases is located on Culver Road right past Stillman College. The University’s program has nearly doubled in size in the past two years. An incredible 80 students tried out for 30 spots which has made the program very competitive to get into compared to previous years.
I asked Courtney about a day in the life of training and it was actually quite extensive! Each practice (which is 2-3 times a week) the riders are responsible for cleaning their horses and tacking them up for their ride. This entails grooming, splinting or wrapping the horse’s legs, and putting on all tack. Courtney said, “Since a horse is basically considered an athlete too, they require optimal care and preparation for practice to reduce the risk of injury.” After prep, the riders walk the horse to the ring where their coach, Ashley Morrison, will run them through strengthening exercises (riding without stirrups), balance exercises (riding without hands or without vision), and flat and jumping exercises. After an hour to an hour and a half, practice is over, but the work is not. After dismount, “we are responsible for cooling down our houses, un-tacking, bathing and putting them back out to pasture.” Courtney said that the entire process takes about two and a half hours from start to finish.
The most common statement she gets when people come to watch them ride is “All you do is sit on the horse and tell it to go.” But in reality, equestrian is a much more complex sport. Each rider must create a bond with the horse, have proper aids, balance, and strength to keep the horse going. In addition to this, the rider must make all of their moves look effortless. She then said, “So yes, if it looks like we aren’t doing anything, then we are doing it right!” To make it even harder, when riders compete they do not get to bring their own horses. At every meet, the teams are given a brief description of each horse and are allowed to watch them warm up before the competition. Once you mount the horse you draw, you must go immediately into the ring to compete!
With the motto “Attitude is everything”, Courtney will ride fearlessly into the National Cacchione Cup with her coach. Since her coach has been her trainer since day one, Courtney says “It’s safe to say that I am very close to my coach and couldn’t be happier to have her standing by my side at (Intercollegiate Horse Show Association) Nationals.” It’s hard to believe that a University team is competing on the national level without much press, but hopefully, with the help of Tuscaloosa’s One and Only Courtney Poist, The University of Alabama’s Equestrian Team will soon have their day in the sun.