By Carter Anderson
Some of the most valuable things Catherine Stafford will take away from her four years as a Texas A&M equestrian are the relationships she has formed with the girls on the team. She created lifelong friendships and found a family that has gotten her through thick and thin. Catherine, better known as Catty, has cherished her time as an Aggie and plans to use what she has learned to take into her next chapter of life, after graduation.
Why did you choose Texas A&M?
When I came on my visit, it felt like family. Everywhere I went, whether it was my official visit, the tour of the barn or just eating at a local restaurant, everyone was so nice and made me feel like a part of the Aggie family. They were welcoming me home, which is why I chose the school over anywhere else.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your four years on the equestrian team at Texas A&M?
The most important thing that I learned is the importance of teamwork. Being a team player has shown up in so many aspects of my life. Whether it’s on the team, in the classroom or even in job interviews, teamwork has proven to be the most important thing I’ve learned. The first question in a job interview is usually, “How much do you value teamwork?” and that’s been where I’ve seen it translate the most.
Has being on an NCEA Division 1 equestrian team changed your view of the sport?
The Aggie equestrian team truly made me fall back in love with the sport. As a junior, I worked for Ken and Emily Smith at Ashland Farms. Although that was the best part of my life, it was stressful to have to ride other people’s horses and deliver results in the show ring. I didn’t get the chance to show for myself, which is a privilege that I’ve had with the equestrian team.
What is the best advice you could give to a hopeful college equestrian?
Don’t go looking for the team, because the right team will find you. For me, Texas A&M wasn’t originally on my radar. I was open to a lot of schools that I had heard about through friends and social media. It wasn’t until I got an email from the hunt seat coach at the time that expressed interest in me and said they felt I would be a great addition and value to the team. Any offer is such a privilege. There are only 15 teams with a certain number of spots, so to be a part of the NCEA is something to be proud of. However, finding the school that wants you and is the best fit for you is the most important thing.
What are your plans after graduating?
I plan on going into the police academy. I don’t think I’d be able to reach my full potential behind a desk at a regular nine-to-five job. I love being hands-on in everything I do, and working with people who share that quality. I’m looking forward to being a police officer and will take great pride in it. I’ve never been more excited about the future.
How do you think being on a collegiate equestrian team has prepared you for life after college?
I work for Jamie Barkhau at Coppertop Farm breaking and training young horses. Along with attending the police academy, I’ll continue to work with Jamie after graduation. Something I’ll take away from the NCEA into my future with that business is how different and special each horse is. The horses who are donated are there for a reason, whether that be an injury or a quirk that that particular horse has. Being able to ride so many different types of horses has prepared me for success.