When people picture a sports team, they normally picture a group of people in matching uniforms, a coach and a peppy chant before they go out onto the field.
For sophomore Erin Van Horn, her team is just her. Northwestern has a rodeo team, a one-woman rodeo team.
Van Horn was born into a rodeo family. Her dad participated in rodeo when he was in college, and Van Horn was raised on a ranch. She attributes her interest in the rodeo to that.
“Growing up on a ranch, it was something my whole family was involved in,” Van Horn said. “Plus, in the practice arena, we grow so much closer together. Sometimes, my siblings and I had to compete against each other, but at the end of the day, we can still congratulate each other.”
Two years ago, when Van Horn applied to colleges, she hoped to attend NW but was concerned about the lack of a rodeo team, so she talked to the school about starting a team.
“The college has been great at helping me with rodeo, and they have been supportive,” Van Horn said. “I still can’t believe I get to do this while at NW.”
Although NW has been supportive of Van Horn’s dream to rodeo on a collegiate level, she is still not on athletic scholarship and trains herself.
“I try to practice every day (in the) summer, spring and fall,” Van Horn said. “I get up early to go down and feed the horses in the morning, and then at night I go out and practice and feed the horses again. She is keeping her horses on an acreage on the edge of Orange City.
She doesn’t have a coach on campus. Van Horn said, “I consider my dad my actual coach. I like to call my dad after my runs to be able to talk through things with him.”
Van Horn competes in two events in rodeo: goat-tying and breakaway.
Goat-tying is an event in which the contestant rides a horse at full speed out of the gate. Once the rider crosses the flagger, the timer is started. The rider races toward a goat that is staked in the middle of the arena. Then the rider jumps off her moving horse, runs toward the goat, flanks and ties three legs together. Once the goat’s legs are tied together, the timer stops, and that mark is how the contestant is placed.
The second event that Van Horn competes in is called breakaway. The breakaway event consists of the competitor racing out after a calf, the competitor ropes the calf and as the calf races away the rope breaks away from the saddle horn, once again ending the timer.
Van Horn’s spring season started the weekend of April 5 in Brookings, S.D. She placed fifth in goat-tying.