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Equestrian  . 

Get to Know Lydia Roof

by Brad Muller

Lydia Roof has been around horses all her life. Whether it was getting her first pony at age four, competing in equestrian events for many years, learning to play polo, and now working as the assistant barn manager for the South Carolina equestrian team, Roof always comes back to the animals she loves.

“Horses are high maintenance,” said Roof with a laugh. “It’s a 24-7 job, but the responsibility I’ve learned with them since I was a kid, it just gives me such a sense of purpose at the end of the day, especially when they compete like this. To see them be a piece for these girls to reach their full potential is so cool.

“The horse health and the horse performance; seeing them do well, that makes me feel good, and I love being around the girls. I was a student-athlete. I know that the barn is a safe space and stress reliever. You get on a horse, and you get to prove your athletic ability, and when you get off, you get to just be in the barn. I like that I get to provide that environment for them. I try to be uplifting and encouraging.”

Roof knows all about being part of that environment. She was hired as the assistant barn manager for the South Carolina equestrian program last summer, but the Lexington, S.C., native is not a stranger to the program. Roof started her collegiate career at Stephen F. Austin and then competed for the Gamecocks for two years (2008-10). Her older sister, Rebecca, was also a member of the Gamecock equestrian team and was a team captain. She then moved back to Texas to work full-time before going back to school and earning a Bachelor’s in Animal Science and Wildlife Biology, and a Master’s in Agriculture and Wildlife Management at Sam Houston.

“You never stop learning things, and I just have this interest in learning.”
Lydia Roof  . 

Roof grew to expand her “horse sense” and has more than ten years of professional experience assisting in managing polo horses and horse farms.

“I got into polo horses when I moved to Texas,” Roof said. “I was working on a hunting ranch, and a guy there got me interested. I fell in love with the sport. Those horses are incredible athletes! When I moved back here, I got back into polo in Aiken (S.C.) and found a really cool farm that runs a polo school. You meet all kinds of cool people from all different walks of life. It’s the same in equestrian where everyone has their own style of doing things. There is a history and culture to every equestrian sport.”

While she doesn’t compete in equestrian anymore, polo can scratch that competitive itch.

“Playing polo is so much fun,” Roof said. “I mean, it’s a sport on a horse! I love running fast. In polo, you want a horse that’s got the speed of a thoroughbred. They’re quick and they’re little.”

After growing up showing horses and getting into reining, Roof admits she misses competing sometimes, but she enjoys being a spectator as well.

“I’m more of a behind the scenes kind of person,” Roof said. “I like to work the horses, and if I see a problem, I help get it fixed.”

Roof is up before dawn most days to get to the barn and get the more than two dozen horses ready.

“It is a seven-day a week job,” said Roof. “It’s them before me sometimes. We get up and get the horses fed and stalls cleaned. We get them clean water and any types of medications that they need or treatments that we have to do. Then around midday, we bring the horses around for the student-athletes to practice. At the end of the day, it’s more of the same. We have a feeding schedule, and we do all types of therapy for the horses, just like athletes would do. We use things like massage guns, therapy plates, and BEMER blankets. Then twice a week, we have a farrier come out to work on their feet because their feet are very important.”

While she doesn’t know where she’ll be ten years from now, you can bet Roof will be outside.

“You never stop learning things, and I just have this interest in learning,” Roof said. “Recently I did this thing where you ride mules and donkeys, so now I want to do a pack trip. There is just so much cool stuff to do! I’m just an outside person.

“Every time I get away from horses, I end up coming back. I guess I’m good at it.”