By Arrica Wynn – Design Editor
Located five miles from campus and nestled in the Dacula suburbs, Cornerstone Equestrian is the hopeful new home of the upcoming Georgia Gwinnett College equestrian team. In the highly competitive leagues of collegiate equestrian sports, an experienced trainer is required to guide the team to victory. Marian Bickers, 30, is the founder and trainer of the stables at Cornerstone and aims to turn GGC’s upcoming equestrian team into a true contender. Cornerstone is home to 22 horses and spans across 10 acres with expansion soon to come. Features include a large arena with seating, field and arena jumps and lesson horses personally matched to the rider.
“It’s an actively growing sport, more and more colleges are getting teams so it’s becoming more competitive with the number of members joining,” said Bickers. “I am extremely thrilled to start this team with GGC.” Bickers began riding horses at the age of three and fell in love instantly. She went on to teach lessons throughout high school and college before competing on the North Georgia Equestrian Team. Her training spans through Florida and into Europe where she trained horses that became Olympic caliber. “Fifteen college students currently train and compete at Cornerstone, but more GGC students are needed,” said Bickers.
“Any beginner can walk into the stables and learn to show and event. It just takes practice and dedication,” she said. “The more time they have in the saddle the better the team will become.” Riders of all experience levels are welcome to join the team and can expect to ride weekly. Depending on the expertise of the individual, students will be able to compete within the year. “We need to get students here that are currently riding and you would also have students that would want to join GGC because of the team,” said Bickers in regards to the formation of GGC’s equestrian team. Marian’s record of training excellence is evident in her current team’s rankings.
Last year, Cornerstone had more points than any other equestrian team in Georgia. Within the past three years, Cornerstone has sent three high school riders to nationals and is second in Georgia currently. Competition through the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association involves eight levels of Hunter Seat Riding with jump heights ranging to 2’9”. Over 370 colleges compete in the United States and Canada and with dedicated students, GGC may become one of them.
The barn competes almost every weekend from August to March with five collegiate competitions a year. With enough student volunteers and the club receiving full recognition from the student’s association, the GGC equestrian team could begin training immediately for competitions. “The students have done very well and I’m very proud of them,” Bickers said. “A bunch of them just started college after competing in high school and made it to nationals so the team would have a great start.”
When asked if she could make GGC a leader in college equestrian athletics, Bickers replied, “Yes, absolutely.”
“It’s so cool they are making a team, I would love to come watch them actually compete,” said Jessica Wylie, 26 — a junior at GGC. Alex Schepanksy, 21, a sophomore at GGC, has volunteered to be president of the equestrian team. “I’ve emailed advisors regarding their approval,” said Schepanksy. “I have several people that are interested in starting this club.”
“It would create more spirit,” Bickers continued. “It’s always good to get students involved and the retention rate would go up if they have something to stick around for. I have five college students that are not going to GGC because they didn’t have an equestrian team they could join.”