Eva Barnett (’19) served as co-captain of Pratt Equestrian during her senior year. She’s now the Graphics Design/Operations Assistant for the Metropolitan Equestrian Team and an Alumni Rider with Pratt Equestrian.
I had visited Pratt before I had applied to another art and design college, but I was so set on that other college that I didn’t seriously consider Pratt. I had done previous summers in the other school’s program, and of course at the time they were the only AICAD school with horse + art. I attended this school for a few months before I realized it wasn’t the fit for me. I knew I needed more of a challenge. People asked me a lot, why I left, and I just needed more. I was only able to take three classes, and I felt like I couldn’t walk around the area, which didn’t have a city vibe.
I transferred to Brooklyn and I loved it!! Didn’t look back once I made some friends! I’ve definitely made it my home now.
I really liked my Graphic Design Program and at Pratt I found students we’re more likely to take risks and go out on a limb. They are definitely not afraid to try new things and push boundaries.
Did riding and horsemanship play a part your development as an individual?
I knew I was good at riding at a young age. I tried every sport I could, but riding just came so naturally and it was the first time I felt like I was not only good, but exceptional. I call myself "accidentally very intense" because I tend to have a small hobby or interest and then get really intense with it and it just grows into something I never imagined, so the same thing happened with riding. I had to find this balance of understanding my skill, but also realizing that kids my age were not necessarily as committed as I was. Jane has helped me really understand that I can be as good as I am and not have to feel bad about owning my skills. I am constantly unlearning second guessing myself. This was definitely a habit I developed growing up because I always wanted to fit in with the kids around me and at school I really never talked about riding because it was hard to relate to others. There's so many life lessons that I've learned that come from riding; patience, understanding, decision making, time management, they all come from riding!
Can you tell us what riding means to you now?
Riding for me always allows me to focus on the present. I have a difficult time balancing anxiety, so things like riding and running allow me to focus on being in the present and focus on myself. I am a helper by nature, so I tend to put everyone's needs before my own. Having a designated time for riding allows me to focus on my connection between the horse and myself and forget about everything else. I hold this relationship with riding very close to my heart, as it has definitely provided me perspective in trying times in my life.
You now work for the Metropolitan Equestrian Team and its Equine Opportunity Program. Can you let us know what these are all about?
Sure. The Metropolitan Equestrian Team (MET) is a non-profit organization founded and directed by Jane DaCosta, who’s also the head coach of Pratt’s Equestrian Team. MET’s mission is to provide children with rorseback riding and educational opportunities, regardless of their socioeconomic status. MET also has an Equine Opportunity Program that allows riders around the country to become as creative as they want through our educational and equestrian programs. Students have the ability to ride in any discipline and work towards their goal no matter their riding level or location in the country. I LOVE our Equine Opportunity Program, it’s something I wish I had while growing up! Riders are given all the platforms needed to really make their dreams a reality. This program is very special in that there are NO constraints. No matter where you are located in the country, your discipline of riding, riding level, or if you own a horse, you are able to set your own goals. Our riders are very savvy, so it is amazing to see their confidence grow and to see their passion grow, too. Whether they’re in the saddle or in the classroom, they’re given amazing resources to achieve any of their dreams.
I think we can see how your equestrian background makes you a great fit for MET! How does your Pratt education fit with your career there?
Graphic design is one of the many hats I wear at MET, but I think creative problem solving, a skill I learned very well at Pratt, is what makes the difference. I always think of COMD/ Graphic Design as a superpower! I learned how to communicate with Graphic Design and now I can help others communicate great ideas or fine-tune their presentations. I have learned to see how things COULD be, and fill in the steps in between. A good question is always; How can I make this possible?
What was it like to join Pratt Equestrian?
I was SO nervous coming in! I think I was shaking. I know I didn't say much, because I could see everyone was so close already, and I felt like I didn't know my place. Erin Hayes came up to talk to me at one point and she was so sweet and asked me questions and just seemed genuinely interested in me, so that's when I started to feel welcomed. I started getting to know everyone and realizing they had the same passion and loved horses beyond just being in the saddle. Everyone's an artist, so I always loved seeing Olive Lagace’s illustrations, or Ayse Ozkan’s drawings! I was always told that people didn't like their riding teams, or that it was all drama, but Pratt Equestrian is very special in not being that way!!
As soon as I joined the team, that really changed my life for the better. I had gone into college understanding that if I wanted an arts education I would have to put riding on the backburner. I was able to combine two of my passions (and now with MET, three: design, horses AND helping others!) and I found I was so much happier. That balance between hustle and bustle and a good ride is so important! I am so grateful for everything Pratt Equestrian has done for me. There are so many things, they're actually hard to fathom, but Pratt Equestrian really just helped me grow, really be happy, and have friends who also love animals as much as I do!!!
What are your equestrian hopes for the future?
I hope to compete more. That's why I'm so excited to be an IHSA Alumni Rider! I also love the challenge and the attention to detail that riding demands. I'm always up for a challenge, so riding will always keep me on my toes!
Any last words?
I had a lot of hesitation on joining the team for many different reasons. A combination of Art + Horses is very rare, but at Pratt it's so special. The team is about passion. Our team is small, but that's why it works. The riders on our team really want to be there, and the team forms a tight bond, which makes all the difference. I say, just go for it!
Photo: Joe DuPont