Sophomores Theresa O’Keefe and Emma Wille have brought their passion for horsemanship to Knox by reviving the campus equestrian team, which aims to promote the sport on campus and participate in regional shows.
O’Keefe and Wille met as freshmen last year as members of the equestrian club, which met irregularly at the time. They both wanted the group to be more serious, so coming into this year they labored to receive club sport status, making it an official team with Wille serving as captain and O’Keefe as coach.
Last year, many club members had only a passing interest in horsemanship, but this year the team has 19 members who are serious about the sport.
“We have people who are really excited and committed to learn,” O’Keefe said.
Around half of the team’s members have little to no experience with horsemanship. O’Keefe, who has been riding since the age of five, teaches group lessons twice a week, spending time both with beginners and those with more experience. Lessons take place at Woodland View Farm, a 320-acre facility located in Knoxville.
O’Keefe and Wille plan to strongly establish the equestrian team within the Knox community.
“We’re establishing a team that holds itself to the same standards as any of the other teams on campus,” Wille said.
The equestrian team is not unprecedented in Knox history. This past summer, Wille was contacted by alumna Cynthia Brown ’64, who told Wille that Knox had an equestrian club decades ago. Cynthia Brown’s mother Frances Brown ’42 was a member of the group, which lasted from the 1920s through the 1950s. The club was known as “Thunder on the Left” and they rode on the lawns that are now in front of the Quads.
“It’s really cool to find out the team has a history here, because we thought we were trailblazing, but in reality we’re bringing back this established thing,” Wille said.
O’Keefe and Wille hope to place a display in the renovated Alumni Hall showcasing “Thunder on the Left.”
Split into varsity and junior varsity squads, the team will compete against other Midwest colleges and universities in shows held by the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA). Their first show is on Oct. 11-12 at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Admission is free and open to the public.