Back in the saddle, now as a coach


On the wall of her parent’s office hung a vibrant, blue matted poster of a famous jumping horse and its rider caught mid-leap. Although its colors have faded over the years, its inspirational essence still radiates as it hangs on the wall of a new office in Fresno State’s Student Horse Center, whose door reads “Caitlin Marshall (2011), Assistant Hunt Seat Coach.”

Although Caitlin started riding as early as four-years-old, her family couldn’t afford a horse right away, leaving her to ride mostly ponies or anything that “had four legs and [a] neigh.” When she was thirteen, she received her own horse, one that would make the move with her from Pennsylvania to Oakdale, California.

Caitlin became a junior rider in high school and remained unaware of the sport’s collegiate opportunities until her mother found Fresno State’s Equestrian program — the West coast’s only NCAA team at the time.

As a bulldog, Caitlin majored in Ag Business and thrived as an athlete, becoming team captain her senior year.

“We were a family, we weren’t just a team… A win or a loss, those are the kinds of things that fade eventually, but those relationships you build with one another, those are the most important things.”

After graduation, Caitlin returned to Oakdale to become a professional rider and trainer. One day, a former teammate, who was the current Assistant Hunt Seat Coach, called to ask Caitlin to return to Fresno and help the girls prepare for national championships. Not long after her temporary return, Caitlin received another phone call.

“She called because she was ready to move on and leave and said, ‘Hey, I think you’d be great at this you should definitely go back to being a professional…so I applied and here I am.”

Being back on campus as a staff member came with a number of adjustments, but none as interesting as walking into her new office.

“…It had been my coach’s office. So it felt kind of odd as I was moving in to be like, ‘This is a place that I used to come and sit on the opposite side of the desk and now I’m sitting behind the desk.’”

During season, Coach Caitlin layers on the sunscreen and spends nearly eight hours every day in the arena — a place outside of which she “doesn’t know what to do with [her]self.”

As a coach, she wants the best opportunities for her girls and works to keep pushing the program forward.

“We didn’t have conference championships when I was in the NCEA, and now we do, and that’s such a wonderful thing to have added…I’m so happy with where this program is going and how much improvement it’s made over the years and how much support it has now.”

The team is set to open its new building in the spring of 2019. It will house a new locker room, an industrial laundry space, and new coaches’ offices, one of which will have Caitlin’s poster hanging on the wall.

“I see a really long, wonderful future here…There’s very few coaches in the nation that I think would able to tell you that they’re coaching for the team that they were on. I was a bulldog. I am a bulldog. I’ll always be a bulldog. So it’s really nice being able to coach for the bulldogs.”

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