Alex DeVries ’15 is probably best known for his skill on ice. But few people know that DeVries has another passion: he is an equestrian.
He has received a co-curricular exemption for this fall to ride at Orion Farm in South Hadley.
DeVries’s interest in horses started in kindergarten, when he rode for the first time at a birthday party. “They couldn’t get me off the horse,” he joked.
DeVries then started to ride on a regular basis in second grade. It wasn’t long after that before he began his career as a competitive jumper.
Jumper competitions are races around a track, with time penalties when a jump is not cleared.
Recently, DeVries has had some major success; he placed well in both a state competition and an international competition in Florida over the summer. Later this year, he aspires to ride in the “young riders’ competition,” a competition of top riders from across the nation.
One of the major misconceptions people have about competitive horseback riding is that the horse does all the work. According to DeVries, some people believe that riding requires very little skill.
“Yes, the horse does a lot of work,” he said, “but it’s the rider who has to tell the horse what to do.” It’s not necessarily the physical aspect of riding that’s the most challenging; it’s more the mental side. Reacting on impulses…it’s hard to put into words. It’s really a different feeling.”
Over the summer, DeVries spent some time with Will Beck ’14, who introduced him to polo, a game played on horseback. Long wooden mallets are used to hit a small ball through two goal posts to score.
DeVries said he was fascinated by the sport and hopes for the opportunity to play.
“It’s basically a mix between the sports I play, hockey and horse-riding, so I really liked it a lot,” he said.
Three students, DeVries, Beck, and Olivia Mehm ’14 now play polo on Sundays. Their goal for the future is to try to form a campus polo team, which would compete against other New England schools like, Groton, which has an established program.