By Ashley Bowden
The equestrian team will have the home- ring advantage for the first and only time this season on Sunday, Nov. 11. The Pioneers compete at the North Shore Equestrian Center against Columbia College, St. Joseph’s College, Molloy College, Stony Brook University, and Princeton University.
“[I enjoy] the experience of meeting different coaches and seeing all the different people ride,” Katherine Garcia, freshman vet tech major, said.
Team members are excited to compete with horses they’re familiar with. At other schools, “What makes it competitive is that we don’t know any of the horses that we get to ride,” Mallory Slack, senior biology major, said. There are approximately 130 horses on campus, and riders will be assigned one at random during the show. “We don’t get any warm up, nothing. We just have to go straight into the ring and jump around a bunch of fences,” Slack said.
Riders compete in different divisions with walking, trotting, cantering (“flats”), and jumping, aiming for a first-place score of seven points in each category. The goal is to make the horse look as attractive as possible. At some point, riders can expect challenges such as removing their feet from the stirrups. “We won’t have our irons, and we have to continue making it look pretty and put-together,” Slack said. They will have to adjust in a little as 30 seconds depending on the behavior of their horse.
“Jumping is all a connection between the rider and horse,” Grace Titus, freshman education major, said. “And sometimes that connection isn’t great, but that’s what our competitions are all about – making the best of it.”
To control the horses, doing flats means, “Getting them to listen to your legs and your hands which are the main aids in riding,” Titus explained. When jumping, riders ensure their horse looks nice as it lands at the appropriate distance. “The horse knows what it’s doing, but you really need to help them out a lot.”
The team meets three times a week to practice flats on Tuesdays, and meets on Thursdays and Fridays to practice flats and jumps. “It makes us have an advantage over other teams, the fact that we are so structured in our practices,” Slack said. “We are worked very hard.”
“The more practice you have, the better your show’s going to be, because you’re riding so many different horses,” Garcia said. She, among some of her other teammates, meet out- side of regular practices to ride on Saturdays.
“The horses need to be in training all week so that they get prepared for the shows on the weekends,” Titus said. The horses are bathed and groomed before the shows, and their equipment, such as bridles and saddles, are cleaned.
Many of the horses on campus come from show barns, where they’ve been trained at a young age in high level competitions. “We are very grateful to use them for our program,” Titus said.
Preparations begin the day before the show. The course designer, Susan Phillips, determines where the jumps will be placed. The fences will be repainted and decorated with flowers.
Titus is looking forward to the Pioneers’ only home show. “Our shows run very smoothly, there’s good turnout [and] all the horses are really well prepared, so I’m super excited for it,” she said.