Aiken, SC (05/10/2023) — When Carson Hiler Langenberg takes to the field at the United States Eventing Association 2023 Intercollegiate Eventing Championship on May 26 to 28-the sport's national championships for collegiate teams-it will be her first time competing. It will also be her first as president of USC Aiken's eventing team.
Langenberg, who graduates in fall 2024, is a multiple area 6 championships winner who "was handed the reins," as she puts it, as president of USC Aiken's eventing team in January 2023. With six riders and horses set to compete, it will be USC Aiken's largest showing at the national championships within at least the past three years. And the importance isn't lost on Langenberg. "We're competing against college teams from across the U.S.," she said. "It's a huge, huge deal."
The eventing team has had its challenges over the past several years. Horses have been injured or not ready to compete, and fees have been a hurdle for the small program at USC Aiken. Still, it has consistently placed in the ribbons at nationals, even with sending only one or two team members in past years,
But this year, the stars aligned. "Truly, it's just the timing of it all," said Langenberg. "Everyone's horses are finally ready to go, and everyone has enough funds to cover entry fees to actually compete, which we haven't been able to before."
Under Langenberg's and previous president Alexa Duncan's leadership, the team has worked hard this year on raffles and bake sales as their primary fundraisers and is continuing to reach out to interested supporters and donors.
While not a National Collegiate Athletic Association sport, USC Aiken's equestrian opportunities-which include eventing, polo, dressage and Intercollegiate Horse Show Association teams-attract tends to attract students just like Langenberg, looking for a smaller program that-perhaps surprisingly-offers richer opportunities than at other larger programs, said Michelle Hodge, equestrian coordinator and advisor for eventing and IHSA. That's especially for those students who plan to pursue a career with horses after graduation.
"They're able to work with some of the top trainers in their sport, while still pursuing a college education at top-ranked school," said Hodge. "Also, unlike at larger programs, every student on our equestrian club sport teams gets to ride at shows and competitions."
Many also rank nationally. For example, polo captains Shona Adams and Kaylin Bender compete against Division 1 equestrian schools as part of the Intercollegiate Quarter Horse Association and often win, despite the team's small size and the fact that it is a club sport as opposed to a NCAA-sanctioned team.
"These are sharp kids," says Hodge, "who love the sport and are very active on these teams. For them, Aiken is a nationally recognized mecca for horses and riders."
Although she's originally from San Diego, Langenberg's family has Southern roots. A rider since the age of 5, Langenberg says USC Aiken was her top choice to help her further her riding experience. It was also the only college she toured. "I just fell in love with the small town aspect," she said. "The wonderful thing about Aiken is that there are so many show venues near by, as well the barns being so close to school. [In San Diego,] I used to be about 40 minutes from my barn, and at least a good two hours away from most show grounds."
She adds: "I'd love for us to do really well at this championship, and then next year with more people riding, more support and more recognition, I'm confident we'll be able to get at least second or first place in nationals."