Interview Transcription Assignment
With this interview I hope to look into what it is like being a female athlete (are there ways Title IX directly impacts her experiences?) both at Skidmore and in general. A secondary question I am hoping to address is stereotypes that exist about riding/ the riding team.
1. Can you begin by telling me a little bit about yourself?
2. Can you tell me a little bit about your childhood?
3. What sports have you played?
4. When did you start riding?
5. Why did you decide to try riding?
6. Can you talk about your earliest riding memory?
7. Do you have any other memorable riding memories from your childhood?
8. What is your routine like when you arrive at the barn?
9. Why have you stuck with riding since you began?
10. How do you feel you have evolved and changed as a rider?
11. When did you know that you wanted to ride in college?
12. What was the process like for becoming a college athlete?
13. How do you like being a college athlete?
14. What’s it like being an athlete at Skidmore? What is it like being a female athlete at Skidmore? Is there anything you wish was different?
15. How do you feel being a female opposed to a male impacts your athletic career?
16. Do you feel you are ever treated differently for being a female athlete/ Do you feel the riding team is ever treated differently because it is a Skidmore sport?
17. Do you feel title IX plays a role in…. Skidmore athletics? Riding Team? Being a female athlete?
18. Skidmore riding is one of the best teams, if not the best, that the school has. Why do you think people never talk about riding or pay attention to how you guys do?
19. Do you ever hear any stereotypes related to being a female athlete/ being a on the riding team? What stereotypes do you hear about being a horseback rider? Are these stereotypes true? Why do you think people think them?
20. Is there anything else you feel important for me to know?
My interview with Courtney Plutte ’18 took place Friday, February 10, at 2:00pm, at our kitchen table, in our Northwoods Apartment. The interview mainly focused on riding, an activity that is very big in Courtney’s life so she was not nervous during the interview. She was clearly very happy and excited to be talking about her experiences riding and her childhood memories from when she started riding. It might be important to note that when Courtney talks about her routine at the barn she uses a lot of language and references different items that only a rider would know exactly what that is. Because of a time constraint and the fact that I thought this information would be less relevant for my multi-interview article I did not ask her to explain each of these items and terms.
I: Hi, welcome to your interview.
I: I have some questions I am going to be asking you but just a general summary of it is I want to interview you in hopes of looking at what its like being a female athlete. Specifically, answering the question if there are ways Title IX directly impacts this both at Skidmore being a female athlete and in general being a female athlete and if there are any stereotypes that exist being a female athlete or being on the riding team. So, we are just going to start with some basic questions. If you could just begin by telling me a little bit about your yourself and growing up, a little overview.
R: Well, I grew up in Darien CT. I went through the public school system in town and lets see I started riding when I was about five years old and started competing around 8 or nine and you know I continued at a very high level throughout middle school and high school particularly the last couple of years of high school. I qualified for some big finals and then I have continued on and I am on the team at Skidmore.
I: Great. Do you want to speak a little bit more about your childhood? It doesn’t have to be directly related to your riding career just about your childhood.
R: Lets see, I am an only child. My dad was a stay at home dad. He retired when I was born and so my mom is a partner at the accounting firm EY. And we have a weekend house in Vermont. So, I spent a lot of time up there skiing on the weekends. And lets see, [pause] we would go into Manhattan a lot. We would see Broadway shows when we could, visited museums from time to time. But it was nice. My parents and I are very close. So, the three of us did a lot of things together. Everything was family oriented.
I: I know you talked about how you used to Ski, and I know you ride but did you ever have any other sport careers, even if you played rec soccer?
R: I had a very short stint in soccer in probably first grade, and I have the participation trophy to show for it. But when it came to sports that involved balls I was not particularly coordinated. I have gotten better. Lets just say I got hit in the head one too many times with soccer ball, football, and basketball, nerf ball. Those things can hurt. My mom really wanted me to be a dancer but my body was just not meant to bend that way.
I: Can you go on to talk about when you started riding since I know that’s your main sport of choice?
R: I started taking lessons when I was about five. It was at this little barn in Vermont that was advertising pony rides and lessons. And so we went first for a pony ride and I loved it so much that I didn’t want to get off. So, whenever we were up in Vermont on weekends I just started taking lessons from this lady up there. When I turned seven I was allowed to enroll in a barn near my house, which had a lesson program for kids where one day a week you road and another day a week you did barn chores and learned about horse care. You know all the stuff that it takes to be a complete horsemen/horse woman, whatever you want to call it. Yeah, so I continued riding there for about three years at which point I realized I wanted to go beyond what that program could offer. By that I specifically mean showing more, competing more and that barn you only road the horses that they owned and so I wanted to have the luxury of having my own horse that I could care for. So, I moved to another barn with a lady where we found a pony for me to lease and at the end of that lease bought a pony and later on bought a horse and continued on that path at this other private barn where all the horses were privately owned and started competing. First on the local circuit where you know all the shows are just one day you load up the horses in the morning, drive 45 minutes to the location, unload, show and when your done load back up and drive home. But then slowly I started also wanting more than just the one day and competing against the same people that you would see every weekend and I started competing at big shows where you know the horses would stay in what amounts to a tent which had temporary stalls where they would stay for a week, two weeks, three weeks. And each of the shows were multiple days ranging from four to six days. That’s where my love of the real competitive nature because even when I was little and still going around competing on ponies with little girls with bows in their hair bigger than their head, walking around and competing in the next ring over would be somebody who was on the 1984 Olympic team. It’s amazing. It’s a sport where you look over and see all of these legends riding and competing.
I: Great. So, you sort of answered the next question but is there anything you would like to add about why you started to try riding? What made you want to take that first lesson in Vermont?
R: I don’t know if there is a specific answer. It’s just that I have always loved animals and in particular horses. Basically as soon as I could talk I was always wanting to go on the pony rides, the working farms which had petting zoos with lamas, cows, and horses and donkeys and so we had been driving past this place and I guess my parents saw the sign and decided one pony ride can’t hurt. And I just was so enamored with the experience, the feeling of just walking around on a horses back, being led by someone else. I wasn’t doing anything but siting there. And just the freedom you have on the back of a horse. Obviously, I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it in those words at that age, but it was a feeling that I still remember. Somehow, that feeling was conveyed onto my face because my parents kinda sided and said, “okay, how much is a lesson?” I was lucky that they saw my passion and took that step for me without me having to beg too much.
I: Great. Can you talk about your earliest riding memory? You kind of gave a hint but I don’t know if this is the memory you have or you just have through stories.
R: The earliest memory that I have of one of my first real lessons aside from the pony rides cause those I can’t quite tell what was pony rides and what was the lesson. But one of the first real memories I have of riding was I was on this pony ginger and I was trotting along and all the sudden she either stumbled or did something, basically she broke into a canter. When she did that something happened where my helmet flew off my head and I was so surprised that I just dropped the reins. So Ginger felt that I had no control so she just stopped. And I just remember my instructor running over to me and yelling at me about how you can never let go of the reins no matter what happens you always have to remain in control and be the boss and you know problem solve as problems arise. And you know at the time I was just mildly petrified about the fact that my helmet had just flown off and that was also worrying. Fortunately, I learned later how a helmet should properly fit but it was a very good lesson to learn very early on and quickly that you know as much as the horse is how many times bigger than you are you are still the one with the brain and you really have to be in control of everything. Just the experience of having your helmet fly off and the horse going way faster than you expected that was interesting. That was a new experience.
I: Do you have any other memorable riding memories from your childhood?
R: Yes, this was a couple of years later at the barn that I was at where you both road and came in later in the week and did horse care. And I was on this little pony named Milley who was very sweet but also a little devious. It had to have been late march or early April because it was the first time that we were able to ride in the outdoor rink after the winter. And so I was on just walking around while the instructor was helping the other kids mount and setting up the rink for the lesson. And Milley just gets to this one corner of the rink and flop over to her side and start rolling with me on top of her I was able to get off her but I am just standing there as this little pony with all her tack on her and just watching the saddle get caked in dirt and the instructor just bolting over trying to get her up off the ground and also at the same time pulling out her radio and trying to get someone back in the barns attention and saying “hey can someone bring out like a new saddle, a towel and a brush and because like we have a little situation in the rink.” And you know it was just the most bazar thing cause the pony just gets back up shakes herself off and just stands there. She was a little character.
I: Great. That’s a great story. What’s your routine like when you arrive at the barn?
R: At which barn cause it’s a little bit different for each barn that I go to?
I: Maybe we can start with your barn you ride at now since we are moving into questions that talk about more recent?
R: When I arrive at the Skidmore barn I first walk into what basically amounts to a trunk room, a saddle room its where some people can keep their tack trunks and there are also saddle racks if you have your own saddle, which I do, you can keep it there. So I go in there, I drop my stuff off, I change out of whatever shoes I have warn and into my riding boots and I put my hair into my hairnet and up underneath my helmet. Then I go into the barn isle and see if the clipboard which has the list of horses and who is assigned to which horse, if that’s in the lisle. If it is there I check who I am riding. If it is not I then go into the office and check who I am riding, which is where the clipboard would be otherwise. Once I see who I am riding I go into the tack room, I grab my saddle, I grab the horse who I have been assigned to bridal on their designated hook. I then grab groof which is the appropriate size for that horse a saddle pad, a second saddle pad called a witherpad and if the horse needs any spurs, crops, anything special there is a bucket in the tack room with all that. You just reach in their and grab it. Then I will go to the horses stall and gently but the saddle and the bridal and all that on the ground. I put the halter on the horse and get them hooked up to the cross ties in their stall. Now since its cold then I would take off whatever blankets they have on, neatly hang them on the stall door and then I would groom them with starting with picking out their feet from any manure, mud, shavings, whatever is stuck in their making sure there aren’t any rocks. Making sure that their hoof is hasn’t been any injury cause sometimes things can get caught under there and cause irritation. Then I take the currycomb and you know that’s where you take it over and kind of rub it in circles on their neck to dig up any dirt and hair. Most of the time they really like that and try and lean into you. I have had a couple of horses lean in so far that they have almost fallen over. I will do that almost all over being sensitive to their stomach, then take a brush and get all the lose hair and dirt and get all that off and then I tack up . I put the saddle pad on first and then the wither pad and then the saddle and then the girth on but you can’t tighten the girth too quickly because some of them just get very irritated. Some of them that would pinch them. So you have to you know pay attention to their behavior as you are going through this because that can also give a sign at how they are going to behave while you are riding them and then you put the bridal on. You have to carefully get the bit into their mouth. You have to convince them that opening their mouth and having a cold piece of medal stuck in there is a fun idea. And then you slip it over their eats. Make sure there isn’t any hair caught under a weird angle. Tighten the noseband, tighten the throat latch. Then yeah bring them out of their stall and bring them to the rink. Then you are ready to mount. Before you mount you do have to make sure your stirrups are adjusted to the correct length and that they are not to long and not to short. Then you have to actually make sure the girth is actually nice and snug cause if its not then when you try and get on the saddle might end up sliding under their stomach which would be a very bad thing. Yeah, that’s roughly how it goes.
I: That’s a lot of great details. Quick question how do you spell girth?
I: One more question. I would like to backtrack. I probably should have asked you first. Why have you stuck with riding since you began?
R: Oh wow, I don’t know life without it. And it’s always an escape no matter how hard life is you know there is always a horse that is going to be happy to see you. And even if you have a bad ride even if you do things wrong, even if the horse is acting up. Even when everything is going wrong its still something that I love and it has always been an escape. Yeah, whenever life gets hard I can just escape to the barn both physically by driving over and getting off campus or getting out of the house or whatever but also mentally because you have to be totally focused on the horse and so while your focused on the horse you can’t allow yourself to worry about whatever else is going on in your life and also I am just very competitive. It is always fun to get on and show what you can do and show that you can do it well.
I: When did you know you wanted to ride in college?
R: Yeah, probably after I decided that Skidmore was where I wanted to go. And I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue riding for a team, I knew I was going to continue riding regardless, but when I decided that Skidmore was where I wanted to be I decided that there was no question in my mind that I was going to try out for the team.
I: How do you like being a college athlete?
R: It is great. It is hard but it is worth it.
I: What was the process for becoming a college athlete or is it different?
R: For riders we are not recruited. You kind of have to seek it out on your own. You almost have to go out of your way to make contact. Go to the barn when you first show up on campus. Make sure they know your name, know your face. And you know you have to want it cause there aren’t exactly there are posters that are around for information sessions but its not very obvious. You have to want it. You have to look for it. Not everyone who tries out makes it so you have to be willing to learn and take criticism except the failures along with the successes.
I: Okay, that’s great. I am going to read a series of questions and you can answer as you feel. What’s it like being an athlete at Skidmore? What’s it like being a female athlete at Skidmore? Is there anything you wish was different?
R: Being a Skidmore athlete is interesting because athletes seem to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time. You know, I am involved in a lot of different activities all across campus and it seems that there are certain elements of it where its almost like never the twain shall meet thing but really it’s a small campus so the athletes are you know just as a part of the community as the acapella groups. Being a female athlete in particular is um I think fun because when you go to D-hall or just walk around campus. When there is a guy who is an athlete, or maybe I am just more attune to it, it seems that you can kinda tell but a lot of the female athletes unless you know them or talk to them you don’t really know or pay attention to if they have the backpack that signifies what sport you don’t really know what sport they are on or whatever. We are kinda hidden heroes not heroes cause that’s poor word choice but you know we are visible but we are hidden at the same time. So, that’s really cool. But also being a part of the riding team is specifically being an equestrian is interesting because you know all the athletes or almost all the athletes except for us they hold their practices or at least parts of practices down at the sports center so they are crossing paths all the time. We are removed to the stables which is great that a) they are so close to campus and that it forces you to get off campus but we are often kinda left out of the discussion when it comes to athletics. There still are somehow people on this campus that don’t even know we exist or we are a varsity team despite the success that we have had and you know its hard not to be a little bitter about some of that.
I: How do you feel being a female athlete opposed to a male athlete impacts your athletic career, it might not?
R: It really doesn’t. Riding has always been always at least at the lower levels a very female dominated sport. So I have a lot of strong female role models.
I: Do you feel you are ever treated differently for being a female athlete? Do you feel the riding team is ever treated differently because it is a Skidmore sport?
R: I don’t feel I have been treated differently as a female athlete. Riding is treated differently I feel as a sport because there are still a lot of miss conceptions about what we even do. So, you know there are still the quips about you just sit there but frequently not from other athletes just by on lookers. As a sport you know we sometimes get shafted for practice training times at the sports center for the teams that are there more regularly I suppose. They are working on their relationships.
I: Do you feel title IX plays a role in Skidmore athletics, Riding Team or Being a female athlete?
R: I am sure it does but personally I have not really experienced anything title IX related.
I: Skidmore riding is one of the best teams, if not the best, that the school has. Why do you think people never talk about riding or pay attention to how you guys do?
R: Because all of our competitions and things, even our home stuff, technically it is off campus and its you know our competitions are usually in the winter and people don’t necessarily want to get up early on a Saturday morning to come out to the barn to watch something frankly most of them probably wouldn’t understand what they are watching. And you know its structured differently than any of the other team sports because its both individual and team at the same time.
I: Two more questions. Do you ever hear any stereotypes related to being a female athlete/ being a on the riding team? What stereotypes do you hear about being horseback riders? Are these stereotypes true? Why do you think people think them?
R: One of the stereotypes, the most prevalent stereotype about horseback riders is that they are the prissy rich kids who have never had to lift a finger for everything. And that is so so false, there are many of us who are exceptionally privileged and had an immense amount of help and had the chance to ride fantastic horses throughout our careers but you know I really don’t think you will find a harder working group of people, yet alone women anywhere because you know its not all glamour. We deal with a lot of stuff. We are convincing thousand pound animals to do our bidding frankly. Dealing with literally getting pooped on, kicked and bitten and all this stuff. I think it also shows that the level of commitment that everyone has to put in for the love of the sport. I think it’s also exemplified in that we almost always have the highest GPA of any sports team on campus.
I: Is there anything else you feel important for me to know?
R: Not really
I: Great, this concludes your interview. Thanks friend!
R: No problem