By Carter Anderson
Ava Stearns is a name many in the horse industry know and admire. She credits her success as a junior to trainer Missy Clark and North Run Farm. During her time with North Run, she discovered college riding through Maggie Gampfer, an assistant trainer who was on the equestrian team at Oklahoma State. This opened Ava’s eyes to college riding as a possibility in her life. Fast forward, Ava is now in her second semester of freshman year at Auburn University and is truly enjoying not only the team but also her academic course load. Currently, Ava is an undeclared math and science major and her passion for learning will hopefully lead her to graduate school.
When did you decide that you wanted to ride in college?
I can’t pinpoint when I decided riding in college would be the right path for me. I looked at a lot of different places, and knew that I wanted to balance my education and my riding. It wasn’t something I planned for until I came to Auburn. It was a great fit and I decided to go for it.
Why did you choose Auburn?
The coaches and staff work so hard to make the team’s success possible, especially head coach, Greg Williams. They really push success not only in riding but also in the classroom, in training, in workouts and in team bonding. That was really important to me, because I didn’t want my college experience to just be in the saddle. The team offered all of those things and more, which made it the best fit for me.
What was the biggest adjustment you faced going into college?
I was really lucky: The coaches were very supportive of me finishing out my junior career during my first semester on the team. I would say the biggest adjustment was settling in to my new surroundings: I’m so used to being on the road and horse showing all of the time. Also, being on a team has been a different experience. I could have a bad ride and still come out of the ring feeling good knowing that 30 other girls have my back and share the same passion for the sport that I have. That aspect was definitely an adjustment, but it’s now one of my favorite things.
What’s your favorite thing about being a student athlete at Auburn University?
Either the amazing support we have academically or getting to meet the other athletes. It’s awesome to meet those people, cheer on different sports and be a part of such a close-knit community.
How has your background and success in equitation benefited you in college riding?
What we do in college is loosely equitation-based. For example, we have flat and fences, which are both incorporated into most equitation classes. Learning equitation tracks and honing my flat skills helped the transition to college riding, for sure. I think the most beneficial thing to me was just being in the team environment and watching my teammates run patterns.
What are your goals for the spring semester?
My goals in the second semester are mainly academic. I love school and want to succeed in my classes. Thankfully, Auburn’s resources help me to do that and still succeed in the ring. Our team goal is to keep building and improving on what we have accomplished. We want to be our best every time, so honing our skills and working hard is really important every time we step into the ring.
Photos courtesy of Auburn Athletics