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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Horsing around at Top Notch Equestrian Centre

Sally is a pony who joined the team seven months ago. (Photo courtesy of Angela Tsai 26)
Sally is a pony who joined the team seven months ago. (Photo courtesy of Angela Tsai ’26)

As the equestrian team prepares for another competitive year, the horses of Top Notch Equestrian Centre, the team’s de facto practice facility, return ready for continued success.

Cooper, a chestnut quarter horse, is a favorite among the team. Junior Shreya Suresh described him as a “chill, old, little guy.”

“Yes, everybody loves Cooper,” coach Kelly Poff, who runs practices for the team at Top Notch, said. 

Meanwhile, Strider, a paint horse, clashes with Cooper in both physical characteristics and personality.

“Whereas Cooper’s a kind old man, Strider’s grumpy,” Suresh explained.

“He’s a big boy, but he takes care of the beginners,” Poff said.

The equestrian team’s competitions are differentiated by levels, including open, intermediate, limit, novice, pre-novice and introduction level competitions. As a result, horses catering to varied skill levels at practice can be very beneficial for the team.

Although Sally is one of the older horses used by the team, she’s a relatively new addition to team practices, having joined Top Notch Equestrian Centre about seven months ago. Nicknamed “Sally-mandor” by the team, Poff described her as a “very comfortable and easygoing little mare.”

Deniro, a chestnut Hanoverian, has been with Poff for four years. With his years of showing even before arriving at Top Notch, Deniro has “been there, done that,” according to Poff. 

Remi, short for Reminiscence, has one of the more unique backstories of all the horses. Poff found Remi, a thoroughbred, in a field, clocking in at nearly 400 pounds underweight.

“My heart went out to him, and we brought him home, trained him and fattened him up,” Poff said. “And he has shown his appreciation to us ever since.”

Ozzie, a Welsh Cross, also has a special origin story. Having been at Poff’s farm for 10 years, Ozzie is “the only horse I have that was bred and born at our farm,” Poff said.

A few horses are coming back to the team after some time away. Lola, a gray mare, is just returning after having been off for a year to have a foal. Similarly, Avril, a chestnut mare, returned to the equestrian team after having been leased to Poff by a friend and having a foal of her own.

“[Avril] has some spunk,” senior show captain and team president Anna Paulsen said.

Cali is a black-and-white pony who Poff has had for two years.

“She’s a feisty little girl. She’s fast, and she’s a really fun jumper,” Suresh explained.

Quatrain, also known as Q, has a history as a derby horse, having once won the Capital Challenge. Poff described him taking on equestrian team practices as “a step-down job for him.” Prince, another thoroughbred, has been shown extensively and has belonged to Poff for around five years.

Charlie is a dark bay pony who Suresh described as “sensitive” but “a great jumper.”

In competitions, the team rarely has the luxury of familiarity when it comes to the horses selected, as the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association follows the catch-riding system.

“You don’t have to bring your own horse to shows,” Paulsen said. “Other schools or the people who are hosting a horse show are providing a horse to ride. And then when you get there, you pick a name out of a hat, like a random draw, and you don’t know which horse you’re going to ride.”

“Most of the horses [in competitions] come from the barns that those other schools train at,” junior secretary Emma Sylvester explained. 

However, the diverse cast of horses at Top Notch Equestrian Centre prepares the team for the lack of familiarity.

“That’s why [Coach Poff] makes us ride different horses every time so that you can learn because each horse requires a different kind of communication,” Suresh said. “They’re just different experiences and require different technique.”

Outside of equine sports, the horses used for Lafayette team practices are cared for by Top Notch.

Despite the frequent work of the horses, Poff and the team ensure their proper treatment, with the horses receiving acupuncture, chiropractic treatment and massages.

“It’s important that they are treated like royalty because that’s where the future of this sport comes from,” Poff said.

“We treat them as athletes and teammates, and their well-being comes first,” Sylvester said.

Disclaimer: Photo Editor Emma Sylvester ’25 did not contribute writing or reporting.

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About the Contributor
Benjamin White, Staff Sports Writer

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  • B

    Brittany C.Sep 23, 2023 at 7:53 am

    What a great topic! As an equestrian myself, I know how hard it is to ride multiple kinds of horses, each unique in their own style and personality. Top Notch horses look like great partners to practice an learn on. GOOD LUCK THIS YEAR!!

  • S

    Susan PearsallSep 22, 2023 at 4:26 pm

    Very interesting story! I was surprised to learn that college equestrians ride unfamiliar horses in competition. It was fun to read about the different horses that Lafayette equestrians ride.

  • C

    Christian MuisenerSep 22, 2023 at 2:13 pm

    Horses! so silly!

  • O

    Owen BurrySep 22, 2023 at 11:22 am

    Man, that was a really well written article. I heard from one of the horse girls that there is a beloved barn cat and I really wanted to learn more about it.

  • J

    JackSep 22, 2023 at 11:20 am


  • A

    AlexSep 22, 2023 at 11:14 am

    I never comment on things but this is a super well written article

  • J

    John WhiteSep 22, 2023 at 11:14 am