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Catawba Coed from Connecticut Brings Her Solace with Her to Salisbury

October 11, 2005

Category: Students

The parents of Catawba College first-year student Kathleen “Kat” Weigel of East Haven, Connecticut knew she’d be a long way from home when she started college this year and would probably experience some separation anxiety.   They had heard that one way to ease that anxiety was to allow Kat to bring something familiar from home with her to college.   And so, she did.

Five or six miles up the road from the Catawba College campus is the apple of Kat’s eye – a very tall, handsome brown-eyed fellow named Ben.   He’s her ten-year-old appendix, half pure thoroughbred and half pure quarter horse, in residence at Highland Hills Stables.

Several times a week, the five-foot tall Kat drops by to see Ben, a blood bay who stands 16 hands and two fingers high.   She rides English-style and puts Ben through his paces across jumps she set up.   The pair often competes competitively and need to stay in practice and in synch, another reason to bring Ben along when Kat came to college in North Carolina.

“I can’t stand being without him – he’s my life,” Kat says of Ben.   “It took us 19 hours to get here from Connecticut because we went around all of the construction and when I first brought him here I think he thought he was going to be sold.   Now, he seems to realize ‘So here we are, you and me,’ and he’s like a puppy again, following me around.”

Kat, who has been riding since she was eight years old, bought Ben when she was only in the eighth grade.   The pair has been inseparable ever since.   Although he was greenbroke when she found him and knew his paces – walk, trot and canter, she has spent hours training him as a jumper.   And Ben, she says, has trained her as well.

“He taught me that how I sit on him and the pressure I apply with my thighs and knees can make him feel nervous,” she recalls.   “Now, we kind of spend some time at the beginning of our riding, just getting in synch with each other.   I’m in the saddle and he’s just standing there quietly and we have sort of our moment of zen.”

Why Catawba?   Why Ben?   Both matched up to criteria Kat put down on two separate lists. Catawba met her requirements with its small student body, great theatre program and location in the South.   Ben was a gelding, relatively young, a thoroughbred/quarterhorse who had been English-trained, and was greenbroke.   Kat originally made two trips to Salisbury, one as a high school junior to actually see the campus, and the second as a high school senior to find a stable for boarding Ben.

Now, she couldn’t be happier.   Her classes are going well and Ben is adjusting well to life at Highland Hills Stables.   “Ben’s my emotional outlet,” she explains.   “I feel better riding him, connecting with him.   Our bond just makes me feel better.”

And, what if Kat meets a companion of the two-legged variety while she’s here at Catawba?   They also have to meet one very important criteria she says:   “My slogan is ‘Love me, love my horse.’ ”

Kat, who plans to major in theatre arts at Catawba, is the daughter of Warren and Kimberly Weigel and one of four children in her family.

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