Q&A with U.S. Navy Midshipman Elizabeth Warner
(First Appeared in the July 2015 Issue of The Equiery)
Ever wonder what it is like to be in the armed forces and compete in horse shows as a member of their team? We spoke with U.S. Navy Midshipman Elizabeth Warner to find out more about being at the Naval Academy and competing for the school’s equestrian team.
Q. When was the Navy team started and by whom?
A. There was a strong team presence about three or four years ago when the Naval Academy owned the Dairy Farm, but once it was leased to Anne Arundel County and the former President graduated, the club went idle for about a year until our current President, Frankie Gale, restarted it in the fall of 2013, her sophomore year as a third class.
Q. How many members are there and where does the team train?
A. There are currently 25 members on the team roster. Seven of the members participated in shows this past season while the rest of the members were active in the lesson program set up for our team at Baywood Farms in Harwood with owners Jamie and Sarah Suchoski and trainer Carrie Baker.
Q. What competitions does the team participate in?
A. For the past two years, we have competed in The Black-Eyed Susan Horse Show Series Spring Show. This year, the show was on April 17-18 at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro. As of now, we are a show hunter, jumper, and equitation team only.
One of our riders, Savannah Stafford, competed in 2’3” and 2’6” jumpers and she made it into the top ribbons for each class. Frankie Gale competed in the 2’ greens and earned top ribbons as well as Reserve Champion in the Open Equitation Division. I competed in the 2’ and 2’3” greens and also got into the top ribbons in each class.
We also had three riders in walk-trot and walk-trot-canter classes. Jade Miller, a plebe (freshman) received Reserve Champion in the walk-trot division.
Q. What would you consider to be some highlights of this season?
A. As a growing team we do not compete regularly at this time, at least in terms of competing against other schools, but it was great to have several of our new riders experience their first show in April. For some it was their first experience showing over fences; for others, it was their first show ever. At the show, all of our riders were in the top ribbons for their division and two received Reserve Champion.
Lastly, the team was showcased at the Washington International Horse Show last October in an Army-Navy Barrel Racing exhibition for fun. Each side had a team of two professional barrel racers, one professional show jumper, and one representative from the Armed Forces. Army’s representative was a Caisson Platoon rider and Navy’s representation was our USNA team Vice President, First Class Savannah Stafford.
Q. What is it like to be both a student at the Naval Academy and a rider?
A. For me personally, the team provides an outlet for the fast-paced lives we lead here at the Academy. There is nothing I look forward to more at the end of the week than my chance to ride. The team not only provides an outlet for me, but also a chance to lead my fellow classmates through leadership roles on the team.
Q. Did you or any of your team members ride before USNA?
A. Yes, although not all rode hunters. We have one plebe (Jade Miller, 4/C) that rode Western for several years. We have another plebe, Fourth Class Paige Furlong, who has had several years of hunter riding. Our senior this year, Savannah Stafford, has over 10 years of riding experience and came from a primarily eventing background. One of the co-presidents, Frankie Gale, has around 20 years of experience and competed in the highest levels of competition in jumpers, hunters, and equitation in California
Most of the club are “newbies,” however. In my case, I joined the team because I have wanted a horse since I was child and wanted to learn what that entails. I competed in shows last year as a sophomore and was hooked; now I own a horse and compete regularly.
Q. What are the future plans and goals for the team?
A. We have several goals for the future. Eventually, we would like to see the team obtain “club status,” which primarily means more funding opportunities for the team. As of now, we operate on money the team raises through donations and by working concessions at football games. The members of our club also pay some of the cost of their own lessons.
In addition, we would like to increase our opportunities to ride both during the week and during competitions throughout the year.
Q. Could you explain your team’s show attire?
A. We had a lot of people inquire about the insignia on our uniforms and many were not aware that they are official military uniforms. We show in Service Dress Blue “SDB” jackets and the various stripes indicate what class each of us is part of. A jacket without stripes is for a fourth class midshipman; one diagonal stripe on the left sleeve is third midshipman; two diagonal stripes on the left sleeve is second class midshipman. One or more stripes with a star on both sleeves indicates a first class midshipman where number of stripes refers to midshipman rank with the brigade.
For example, our senior, Savannah Stafford, has two stripes on her jacket designating her as a “Midshipman Lieutenant Junior Grade.”
Q. And what are USNA rankings?
A. Fourth class midshipmen, otherwise known as “plebes,” are freshman and have many restrictions their first year. They are not allowed to wear civilian clothes and only have liberty (permission to leave the yard for “fun time”) on Saturday from 1200 to 2400 hours. Riding on the team provides a unique opportunity for plebes to leave the yard during the week.
Third class midshipmen, known as “youngsters,” are sophomores. They do not have as many restrictions as plebes but they do not have a lot of freedom, either. They have liberty both Saturday and Sunday but are not allowed to wear civilian clothes. And they serve as mentors to plebes.
Second class midshipmen are juniors, no nickname. They are responsible for training the plebes during school. “Promoting” to second class means civilian attire, cars within Annapolis, and Friday night liberty. In addition to the freedom, they also receive more responsibility and prepare to take over the Brigade the following year.
First class midshipmen, known as “firsties,” are seniors. They primarily hold the leadership positions within the Brigade. They can drive on the “yard” (nickname for the Academy property).
The Brigade is made up of two regiments, six battalions, and 30 companies. For example, I am in 2nd regiment, fifth battalion, and 24th company. I live with the members of my company all four years in our dormitory, Bancroft Hall.
U.S. Naval Academy Facts
• founded in 1845
• located on 338 acres between the Severn River and downtown Annapolis
• campus is called “The Yard”
• Bancroft Hall dormitory and the Naval Academy Chapel are just two of the several century-old buildings on campus that make the school a National Historic Site
• midshipmen represent every state and several foreign countries
• currently there are approximately 4,400 midshipmen and 500 faculty (military and civilian)
• there are 25 majors offered
• there are 33 intercollegiate varsity sports (currently, equestrian is not one of them)
• Notable graduates include:
– U.S. President Jimmy Carter (class of 1947)
– U.S. Cabinet Members Anthony Principi (class of 1967) and James Watkins (class of 1949)
– Nobel Prize winners Albert Michelson (class of 1873) and President Jimmy Carter (class of 1947)
– 24 members of Congress