By Todd Evans
There is an old saying about getting back in the saddle, the meaning being when you get knocked down do not give up. Danielle Tominus, the co-captain of the William Paterson equestrian team has done this both figuratively and literally.
The 20-year-old junior has high expectations for herself and her team over the next year and a half between competition, increased team exposure and personal success. Tominus has a deep love for riding horses because of the joy it brings her.
“For those 30 minutes you’re not thinking about what is going on in your life,” she said. “You’re not thinking about all the bad. For 30 minutes you’re thinking about how much fun you’re having and what you’re accomplishing and what you can do with this living thing.”
Tominus has been a part of the university’s equestrian team since her freshman year and became co-captain last September. She fell in love with horse riding at a young age while living on a farm but did not start riding until after the deaths of her mother and brother when she was nine.
“They put me into it kind of as a therapy,” said Tominus.”But I don’t think they thought I was serious about it and then … I stopped when I was in high school because I couldn’t afford it.”
She had to financially support herself since she was 14 so riding became unaffordable. However as an incoming freshman she learned of the equestrian team and how more affordable it would be to ride with the team than on her own.
“Being on the William Paterson team makes it very affordable,” Tominus said. “And I can’t say that it is super cheap but we make it affordable and we make it fun and the lessons and the people you will meet are amazing.”
Team members currently pay annual dues of $750 to cover the cost of training, horse care costs and horse show-related fees. The dues are cheap because of fundraising to supplement the university club sport financing.
Tominus is an English style rider as opposed to the other riding discipline called Western riding style. The most noticeable difference between the two styles is that English riding features hurtle jumping, Western riding is more about groundwork.
“When I’m riding I feel an adrenaline rush,” Tominus said. “I’m an English rider which means we jump and for me jumping is very exciting. I love to do it, and sometimes my trainer is like ‘Alright slow down concentrate. Don’t just go jump to jump to jump.’ So for me it’s amazing.”
Last year Tominus qualified for zone level which is the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association’s second-highest level of competition below nationals. This year her goal is to reach zones again and advance to nationals this May in Lexington, Kentucky.
The Wyckoff, New Jersey resident attributes her success to her coaches and teammates.
“The coaches are incredible, they care so much for our team especially our Head Coach Hayley Rooney,” Tominus said. “She is amazing, her personality is very humorous and … she cares so much about every one of us and if something is wrong you can always go to her. She is probably the most caring person that you’ll ever meet. And then on the western side it’s the same thing with Derek [Drobenak].”
The equestrian team is considered a club sport by the university, meaning their funding and administration comes from the campus activities office instead of the athletics department. They are the only team in their zone of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association that is not considered an intercollegiate or varsity sport by their college or university.
“I don’t like to be considered a club because technically we are a club sport but in reality we are a team,” Tominus said. “When we compete we go against everyone that is varsity. We’re the only people that are club sport and we keep up just as well as they do.”
Other institutions the team competes against in the region include the U.S. Military Academy, Stevens Institute of Technology and Marist College.
Tominus is on course to graduate in May 2018 in sociology with a social work concentration. After graduation she sees herself going into a sales-related profession partially because of the persuasive skills she has built up as a co-captain.
However, her dream is tied into horses. Tominus said that she would like to open a group home on a farm and open a therapeutic riding center to help those who are troubled or live with disabilities.