By Maxime Devillaz
In its first season as a NCAA sport, equestrian tops the region with top placements at every meet throughout the season. The team is now looking to end on a high note at its home show on Sunday, Nov. 13.
“We are all very excited for our show this weekend because we have the home team advantage using the horses that we practice on every week,” said sophomore Jessica Sulkers, high-point rider at the recent NYU/Princeton Invitational. She won both classes in open flat and open fences. “We go to each show feeling confident, but we know with horses anything can happen and it’s important that we all have good attitudes when things may not go our way.”
Sulkers explained that the host of each event assigns horses randomly to the riders. A non-competitor rides the horses in the morning and riders need to figure out their assigned horse’s strengths and weaknesses based on that. “It is as much a mental game as it is ability, because it is so easy to psych yourself out if you get given a horse that looks difficult or intimidating,” Sulkers said.
Before heading into the ring, riders are not allowed to touch anything but to adjust the stirrups. “This is the factor that makes it difficult because you are literally learning the horse as you go, and have to make it look effortless,” she added.
The team currently stands on 196 points, the highest score in the region. Should this remain true after hosting on Sunday, the team would make its way to zones competition—only done before in 2014.
“It’s great not only being successful individually but being part of a successful and winning team as well, it shows that all our hard work is being paid off,” said sophomore Grace Tice, who tied for reserved high-point rider after finishing atop in her open flat class and second in open fences.
LIU’s decision to make the program a varsity sport has made the group stronger, according to Sulkers. The team has attracted more people to the program, is able to practice more often, and can do so with “higher quality horses” donated by the school. “This really makes a difference in being able to make our practices more complex so we then excel at shows,” she added.
The home show will start at 8:30 a.m. at the North Shore Equestrian Center.
EQUESTRIAN for Beginners
Open, Intermediate, Novice, Walk/Trot/ Canter, and Walk/Trot. Riders are placed in the division best suited to their abilities, from beginners in walk/trot to more advanced in open.
Flat v. Fences
The fences class is referring to jumping, which riders do one at a time to a given course. The flat riders are all in the ring at the same time and are tested on their posi- tion (walk/trot/canter). Only the three top divisions have fences.
High Point Team
The coach picks one rider from each division to be the high point rider, and every placing that rider gets goes to the team’s total score.
Each division and class also has various sec- tions, depending on the number of riders in the competition. Those not picked as high point rider act as “blockers”—trying to hinder other schools’ high point riders from amass- ing points in the other sections.