Courtesy of Cornell Athletics

Senior captain Lena Reeb in the Open Fences division during a home competition last season.

September 28, 2020

Equestrian Team Q&A on COVID-19 Experience

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Sun Assistant Sports Editor Emily Dawson conversed with equestrian team head coach Joanna Novakovic and senior captain Lena Reeb to discuss the equestrian team’s path during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The transcript has been lightly edited for content and clarity.

1. What are the rules around team members riding and being at the barn?

Head Coach Joanna Novakovic: Currently only [horse owners] and essential employees are allowed to be in Oxley and only at their assigned times. Many members of the team have been able to lease or part-lease horses or they are working for Oxley. Anyone who wants to ride must sign up for a two hour block of time and can only be at the barn during their assigned time so that we know exactly who is here and when. This allows for contact tracing if we had to and we can also ensure that there aren’t too many people here at the same time. Currently only the outdoor ring is available for riding and only three people can sign up for each time slot.

2. How are the horses being maintained?

Novakovic: The horses have received full care and attention for the entire shutdown. Essential employees were able to keep the horses that needed to stay in training programs working, while others were allowed a vacation. Both essential staff and coaches have been at work throughout the pandemic to ensure that the horses were still able to get their needs met. Horses take a lot of maintenance; their needs include the vet, farrier and daily care.

3. How is the team bonding despite social distancing?

Senior Captain Lena Reeb: Although we are not able to spend time together in person as a whole team, we have found other ways to connect. This includes Zooming, messaging on Groupme, Snapchatting and other media of communication. Those of us who are leasing or working as an essential employee have been fortunate to be able to see some of our teammates in passing at Oxley. We have also been sharing different workout regimens that don’t require access to a gym and can be done while adhering to social distancing protocol. Our gym managers have worked hard with our trainer to make sure we have access to programs which continue to enhance our strength and conditioning for our sport.

4. Were you able to host tryouts as usual or in a modified form?

Reeb: We have not been able to host tryouts yet, but hope to do so later on in the semester.

5. As a captain, what has it been like for you leading a team during the pandemic?

Reeb: When I ran for captain, I never imagined that I would find myself in the current circumstances. The pandemic has brought about a plethora of challenges and disappointment for the student athlete body as a whole. However, my teammates never cease to amaze me. I am inspired by the efforts of my team to adapt and overcome the obstacles we are facing. Even in these unprecedented times, I have seen, received and have endeavored to provide an overwhelming amount of support, love and care. Everyone seems to be taking their own unique path right now; for example, there is a large variety in modes of learning and course load. What I have found to be challenging, but essential as a leader, is identifying how to support my entire team not only as a whole, but as individuals.

6. Is there anything else you would like to share with the Cornell community about the team’s experience during the pandemic?

Reeb: The athletic community overall seems to be optimistic about beginning strength [training], conditioning and practicing. We really hope we can practice and hold tryouts in the near future. We are also hoping to be able to have a condensed show season next semester.