BY LEXI LOBDELL ’20
Western riding team captain Juliana Ronn ’18 is headed to nationals in Harrisburg, PA on May 3 to compete individually in Open Horsemanship and Reining, the highest level of the Western Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA). Ronn has been a member of the western team for three years and its captain for two.
This will be Ronn’s first appearance at IHSA nationals. “I just want to have fun,” she said. “I think it will be a great experience and it is always fun to watch the ‘real’ western riders who have been doing it for their whole life. And the outfits are always amazing. I’m just hoping to have fun and do the best I can.” Ronn will be renting a special show shirt for nationals that she describes as “glittery and crazy. It’s black and blue with sparkles,” she said.
Ronn has had a successful season, having recently won the Bob Anthony Memorial Scholarship. She is the first rider from Mount Holyoke to do so. Her coach, Kelli Wainscott, nominated her for the award, which recognizes riders who aim to improve the horse they draw throughout their ride. On receiving the award, Ronn said, “Bob Anthony was a big reining trainer who recently passed away and his method was to always do the best for the horse and really work on improving the horse through the ride. I try to do what is best for the horse and look pretty sometimes. But it’s more always about having fun and helping the horse be the best it can be.”
Ronn grew up competing hunt seat in the big junior equitation and hunter classes. When she reached Mount Holyoke, she rode for one semester on the hunt seat team before joining the western team the first semester of her sophomore year. She explained that her desire to join the Western team was “to just have fun. It was a great community; I really loved the people,” she said. “It was also a lot more of a [close] team than the hunt seat team, just because it was a little bit smaller. It was a lot more diverse in riding levels and there was nobody who had really ridden Western for their whole life, so we were all really learning together.”
During her junior year, the team needed a rider who could compete and Ronn, despite lack of experience, decided to move up to the open level as a “team focused move.” She explained, “This year I started off in open, which is the reining and the horsemanship, and I just wanted to work hard for the team and ended up doing well myself, too.”
Ronn’s equitation horse, Anton, moved from her hometown of Palo Alto, CA to Mount Holyoke with her. Now she even practices her western riding on him. He’s a barn favorite for both the hunt seat and the western team riders since he does both at shows. “Anton sometimes goes western when I want to practice western,” Ronn added, “He’s definitely very happy to jump around and do English stuff though. He doesn’t really care; he’s old and happy doing whatever. He likes bareback days, too.”
Ronn then won the regions for the first time since 2014 at the very last show of the season. As the captain, she also enjoys “seeing team members grow in both their riding and as people on the team.” Her favorite part of the team is the dynamic. “We are a really welcoming group and love all levels of riding and love new team members,” she said. “I think that western is a just a great beginning into riding because it is not as stressful, but we are still competitive. I just love the mentality of the team and bringing everyone together to do the best that they can.”
After her graduation this spring, Ronn hopes that the team will continue to work hard together. She added, “I hope that they win the region again. Nobody from this zone has ever made it to nationals as a team, so I hope that eventually our team will make it to nationals. We normally have individuals who go, but it would be really cool to make it as a team.”
As a mathematics major, Ronn plans to go to graduate school in industrial engineering after Mount Holyoke. She hopes to stick around Western Massachusetts for the summer and then take the GRE. “The top grad school is Georgia Tech and then there’s Princeton,” she said. “UMass also has a great program, but I don’t know. I have to take