Nov. 5, 2012
By: Selby Merritt
Women on the University of Georgia’s equestrian team spend four years learning to achieve excellence in the arena, classroom, and community. After their inevitable graduation and entrance into the “real world,” these women take their drive for excellence and continue to pursue their dreams for the future.
Four women who have been a part of this team and graduated in the last 11 years have particularly exceeded expectations in their achievements. Alexandra Linscheid O’Toole, Daisy Whelan, Ashley Slocumb and Lizzie Holmes have all taken the determination they developed while members of the Bulldog Nation and used it to get to where they are today.
O’Toole, a recent member of the Hunt Seat team, graduated from UGA in 2007 with a degree in Sports Business and a minor in Animal Science. Today, she is the owner and trainer of Wisteria Farms in Monroe, Ga. and is married to her husband Ryan.
“Since the age of four I have always known that I wanted to be a trainer and a professional rider,” says O’Toole. “There has never been anything else I would rather be.” O’Toole is determined to become a highly respected trainer in the Southeast that will cater to A-Circuit clients.
O’Toole learned a lot of important skills from being a student-athlete at UGA that helped her get to where she is today. “Don’t fixate,” she advises current student-athletes, “When something doesn’t work out like a distance to a jump or a transition, keep your head up, stay positive and finish like it never happened. The same goes for pretty much everything in life. “
Whelan, another recent member of the Hunt Seat team, graduated with a Fabric Design degree in 2010 and is the designer and founder of Daisy G, a fashion and home accessory line. She says one of the most important things she learned from her student-athlete experience was the importance of being loyal to your goals and your teammates.
“Today I have a goal each season to fulfill my creative vision and sell my products to market and retail customers, with loyalty to my brand,” says Whelan, “To do this, I require individual excellence from everyone I engage: manufacturing vendors, photographers, and those who help me with marketing, press, and sales. With a common goal in mind, and loyalty to the brand, we have success. “
Whelan advises current UGA Equestrians not to take advantage of the lifestyle and schedule they live. “You are required to live an exceptionally healthy lifestyle,” she says, “Sculpted around athletic workouts and intellectual stimulation, your daily schedule is crafted for excellence.”
Slocumb, a member of the Western team, graduated in 2006 with a degree in Speech Communication and a minor in Mass Communication. She now owns her own boutique, Head Over Heels. Slocumb admits the process was scary but that opening her boutique is one of the greatest accomplishments of her life.
She attributes her success to the discipline that she learned from being a student-athlete at UGA. “The team helped me to learn how to multi-task and balance several tasks at once,” says Slocumb. “I was completely committed to the team while making good friends in all my classes and still having a typical ‘college’ life.”
While Slocumb says that she misses her UGA Equestrian “family” the most, she is looking forward to getting married April 2013 starting her own family. She hopes to take the discipline and drive she gained from her time as a student-athlete and put it into starting a family and opening a second store in the next 10 years.
Holmes, another member of the Western side, graduated in 2004 with her Bachelor’s in Animal and Dairy Science. She then proceeded to get her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine and has opened her own practice, Holmes Performance Veterinary Services and focuses on equine dentistry and acupuncture.
Holmes says the most difficult challenge she faced after graduating was figuring out what role the equine world would play in her life. She was inspired to pursue dentistry after working for an internship in which a horse had his teeth worked on by a non-veterinarian and permanent damage was done to his mouth. “I decided then and there that I would open a practice and offer quality dentistry to the horses of Georgia,” says Holmes.
Holmes married a fellow student-athlete at UGA, Justin, who was a member of the baseball team. Together they have an 11-month old son, Rider, and live in Macon, Ga.
Holmes says she will forever be grateful to UGA Athletics for teaching her the importance of fitness. She says that because of the trainers that she worked under while a student-athlete, she made it a permanent aspect of her lifestyle. She says her greatest memory from being a UGA Equestrian was when the team went from being a club-level sport to a Varsity sport NCAA Varsity. “The change to varsity was so exciting,” says Holmes. “I knew I was a part of something that was going to be great.”