Madison Robicheau always knew her life-long love of horseback riding would take her places. Last spring, Robicheau rode her passion all the way to victory with UConn’s women’s polo team at the first-ever Division II National Intercollegiate Championship.
Robicheau, a rising senior in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR), began riding horses when she was five years old. She was introduced to an equine veterinarian through her trainer, which inspired Robicheau, who is now an animal science major in CAHNR’s pre-vet track, to pursue that path as well.
Robicheau’s childhood love of animals extended well beyond horses. She would regularly find and be fascinated by the array of creatures in her backyard.
“I’ve always been kind of addicted to animals,” Robicheau says. “I used to go out in my yard and find snakes and all these little critters and come back with them and look at them.”
Variety was nice, but Robicheau says horses always held her heart. At UConn, she expanded her equine skills when she began taking polo lessons during her freshman year. After pausing the program for the COVID-19 pandemic, Robicheau made the team when it was reinstated in the fall of 2021.
Robicheau says the five-person team is a close-knit group of friends both on and off the field. They even got matching tattoos of bent polo mallets after this year’s victory at the National Championship.
The team’s road to the National Championship was one of excitement and surprises. At Regionals, they beat Skidmore College’s team in a knuckle-biting shoot out after tying the game with 10 seconds to spare.
“It was unreal,” Robicheau says. “We didn’t expect to beat Skidmore at Regionals, so it was fun.”
At the National Championship, Robicheau says the team experienced a similar moment of disbelief.
“That buzzer went off at the end of the game and we were like ‘did we just win?’,” Robicheau says.
Throughout the competition season, the team strived to support others and have a good time, through traditions like dancing the “Cotton-Eyed Joe” before every match and cheering on other teams.
“We really just support every other team and are just excited to be there,” Robicheau says.
Robicheau says her experience on the UConn Polo Team introduced her to life-long friendships as well as a way of riding horses that differs greatly from how she had been trained.
“Everything’s kind of different,” Robicheau says. “It’s really a unique sport.”
Being a member of the polo team also provides Robicheau with first-hand experience caring for horses. In addition to regularly tacking up, warming up, and cooling down the horses, she has learned about injuries the animals can sustain and how they are treated.
“We’re working with the horses to make sure they’re healthy,” Robicheau says. “I know this experience will serve me well in my future as a vet.”
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