These past few years have been ones of excitement for the Albion College equestrian program.
This past month, the program added to the excitement with the hiring of Barbra Reis, who will serve as Albion’s new dressage coach.
Dressage is a type of equestrian event in which the rider and horse progress through nine different levels of competition, levels of which Reis has great proficiency, as she has ridden through intermediate one, one of the highest levels within the sport.
A recipient of United States Dressage Federation silver and bronze medals, Reis received a bachelor’s degree in Equine Studies from Centenary University. While there, she also earned her certification for both riding and coaching, a process she described as a “hands-on experience.”
“It was three months of horse boot camp through the British Horse Society’s Assistant Instructor Certification Program,” Reis explained. “It taught me a lot about caring for the horses as well as riding and teaching.”
Reis, who lives and boards horses on her farm in Ortonville, Michigan, first heard about the Albion College equestrian program back in 2006 when she helped put on a symposium at the college with the Midwest Dressage Association. “I had known alumna of the program like Randi Heathman (‘03) just from going to horse shows. I actually saw her at a show a couple weeks ago and asked if they had found a new dressage coach yet. She said no.”
The rest was history. Reis is now acclimating herself with the equestrian program and is already working to make her own contributions.
“I want to help raise the enthusiasm of the kids that ride here, and help make things more competitive,” she explained.
Competitiveness will certainly be an important contribution from Reis, as the Albion College athletic department recently appointed all equestrian programs to varsity status.
“I feel that the college is supporting the program a lot more,” said Reis, regarding the appointment. “It takes a lot of pressure off our riders, since things like entry fees to competitions will now be paid for by the college. Although the riders will still be doing events like fundraising, they will now get a lot more time to focus on the quality of their riding.”
While the first dressage competition for the Britons is still weeks away, it’s evident that the current riders are under good tutelage from Reis.
“[Riding] is a journey, but what challenges us most is that we’re always learning,” she said with a smile.
Photo courtesy of Mary Phelps