Senior Spotlight: Claire Azar ’22 co-captains equestrian in her penultimate season for the Big Green
Azar was named to the ECAC all-tournament team in both the flat and the fences.
Courtesy of Claire Azar.
Claire Azar ’22, the co-captain of the equestrian team who competes in open fences and flat, has led the team ever since arriving at Dartmouth. During her sophomore year, she won the Cacchione Cup after scoring the most points in Region 2 of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. More recently, Azar led the Big Green this spring in the Eastern College Athletic Conference championships in March, where she won all of her points and was named to the ECAC all-tournament team.
Even when she’s not competing, Azar is a driven leader who plans on always keeping her time with horses close to her heart. As soon as Azar arrived at the College in 2018, she said her relationship with her team was strong; Azar described Dartmouth as the perfect fit.
“I’ve been riding since I was seven and I knew that horses had to be part of my life in college,” Azar said. “[Dartmouth] was the perfect combination of being the right fit for me academically but also having a competitive riding team.”
For all competitive riders, college is an adjustment. In non-collegiate competition, an individual competes with the same horse they train with and is able to build a relationship with their horse. However, Azar said that one of the major challenges to her success was figuring out how to compete on a horse drawn randomly for each athlete at the collegiate level. To overcome this challenge, Azar stays incredibly focused to yield the best outcomes possible.
“She takes the time to prepare, she always walks the course ahead of time,” head coach Tenley Walsh said. “She sets herself up for success.”
In addition, last year, the equestrian team switched from competing in the IHSA to the National Collegiate Equestrian Association. The two associations differ in teams and competition guidelines. For example, in the IHSA horses are drawn randomly and each individual rider rides a different horse, while in the NCEA each rider rides the same horse. Furthermore, Brown University and Cornell University, which are the only other Ivy League schools with equestrian teams, compete in the NCEA. In a new conference, Azar has relied on her relationship with her teammates to support each other at these more competitive shows.
“I've definitely found some of my closest friends on the team,” Azar said. “I remember being a freshman and looking up to all the upperclassmen and becoming super close to them, especially the ’21s — I miss them a lot.”
With the support of her team, Azar has worked hard to get where she is today — she was awarded the Cacchione Cup Rider trophy her sophomore year, which is given to the highest scorer in the region, and was named to the ECAC all-tournament team in March.
“She’s been extremely competitive this year as we have transitioned to a more competitive format,” Walsh said.
Walsh also noted that Azar is especially attentive to her teammates, encouraging them before every competition. Azar’s co-captain, Sophia Aran ’22, echoed Walsh’s statements, emphasizing how appreciative the team is of Azar’s leadership.
“She’s very caring and everything she does she thinks deeply about,” Arana said. “She really does have people’s best interest at heart.”
Azar and Arana, along with the rest of the team, competed at the Ivy Show Championship at Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y. on Sunday. The two have been gearing up for this show for a long time, as the team has not competed at the championship since Azar’s freshman year.
While this is Azar’s final spring season for the Big Green, she is not done yet: Azar will stay on next fall to compete for Dartmouth in her final collegiate season. Afterwards, Azar, who majors in government, plans to move to Washington D.C. to work in communications. Although her time at Dartmouth is ending soon, Azar emphasized that her relationship with horses is far from over.
“It will be bittersweet to know in what way horses will be in my life continuing forward…but I’ll keep them in my life, one way or another, ” Azar said.