Evelyn Beesaw sees herself in the young girls who come to Texas A&M equestrian meets, remembering how she used to look up to the Aggies and want to be like them one day.
Beesaw, a Bryan native, got that wish. She’s coming off her first season as a member of the Texas A&M equestrian team. Beesaw competes in horsemanship, one of two Western events.
“The coolest thing to me about being on the team has been the teammates because in high school, you have friends, but they don’t really know what you’re talking about [regarding equestrian],” she said. “It’s been so cool to have girls that know what you’re talking about. They love riding as much as you do, and everybody’s super nice.”
In horsemanship, Beesaw is judged on how she completes a pattern and executes maneuvers on a horse. In equestrian competitions, riders compete on a horse they have never ridden before.
“You’ve theoretically never been on this horse before, so that’s kind of the challenge of it is how smoothly you can get through it, how well you can get through it,” she said. “And then you’re judged on your body position as well, which [they’re looking at] is there a straight line from your ears to your shoulders to your hip to your heel, and are your heels down? Are you sitting pretty? Are you emoting confidence?”
Beth Bass, a former Texas A&M assistant equestrian coach and Beesaw’s trainer, said Beesaw started expressing serious interest in collegiate equestrian riding as a high school freshman and feels her pupil has a good sense of how to respond to a horse in a short amount of time. Her dedication also stands out to Bass, who is extremely proud of Beesaw as a student, teammate and rider.
“When you ride in college, you have to have a lot of what we call feel to be able to adapt to a new horse in a short amount of time and to be able to react to them quickly and efficiently and effectively,” Bass said. “I feel like she’s a very soft rider as far as her feel and her effectiveness.”
The physical limitations of Beesaw’s horse in high school allowed her to ride Bass’ other horses, which ultimately helped prepare her the variety college riding brings.
“That’s kind of what college riding is all about, riding an unfamiliar horse and finding connection with that horse in a very short amount of time,” Bass said. “Even though it was a hindrance that her horse had issues, it gave her opportunity to get familiar with other types of horses as well.”
Though she didn’t compete freshman year, Beesaw, a biomedical sciences major, embraced the team atmosphere and enjoyed getting to know teammates who were as passionate about horses and riding as she is.
One of the biggest changes was getting used to working on technique without constant feedback from coaches — for example, a college coach might tell her to work on keeping her heels down, and she would then be expected to work on it by herself. Aside from seventh-grade volleyball, Beesaw hadn’t participated in a team-style practice, but first-year assistant coach Suzy Jeane, who oversees horsemanship riders, helped Beesaw adjust.
Jeane is a quarter horse judge, and many of Beesaw’s teammates grew up riding that breed, but she showed appaloosa horses growing up. She got noticed by A&M coaches by attending camps at the university, while her teammates who show quarter horses got recruited by coaches who attend those shows. Just like any sport, she also sent videos of herself riding to college coaches.
“Appaloosas are notorious for being hot-tempered, which they’re not really, but my horse that I grew up showing with, he was super sweet, but he just had some little tics, and I think that prepared me for college, actually,” she said. “Even though most of the horses at school don’t really have the same tics, it definitely prepared me for getting on a horse that might be more difficult.”
The equestrian team has 75 horses, so it’s not hard to practice riding a different horse every day. The riders also have tricks they can use in getting to know a horse before competition.
“You learn strategy, like if your horse is leaning right, how to correct that [or] how to hide that in your pattern if you can’t correct that in four minutes, which most of the time, you can’t,” Beesaw said.
Beesaw loves having her family nearby, and her sister, Claire Beesaw, recently committed to ride at A&M, but she feels like she has plenty of space. Having Claire decide to join her at A&M was a great experience, and Evelyn called Claire her “best friend in the whole world.”
“I haven’t felt like, ‘Ah, man, I wish I had gone somewhere else,’ at all,” Evelyn Beesaw said. “It’s been a completely new experience being in Aggieland.”