Bri Greyling, Campus Carrier Copy Editor
Berry College’s equestrian team ranked first in Western and second in hunt seat for this past season. After competing at regionals at Auburn University on Saturday, several individuals also qualified to compete in Zones at Auburn University again on March 30.
This postseason, the team and coach Margaret Knight Ellington have a heavy focus on the individual riders’ success. Ellington is focusing on individual riders that placed first or second at regionals and qualified for Zones.
Each region sends two riders to compete at Zones, and the riders that place in first or second at Zones will compete at Nationals in Syracuse, N.Y. on May 2-5.
The team is required to work out and ride three times a week, but the team is buckling down for the competitions ahead and training harder than what is required, according to senior Western rider Sarah Cooper.
Fortunately, the equestrian team has been able to practice in their covered arena during the immense amounts of rain, unlike much of their competition. Berry’s covered arena at Gunby Equine Center has allowed the team to prepare for the upcoming competition, while other schools did not have this luxury.
“We have the luxury of having an on-campus barn,” Erin McGlone, senior hunt seat rider said. “Most schools like SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design), do not even have a barn on campus, and they are the top of the top.”
McGlone qualified for semifinals and out-performed much of her competition at regionals.
“I really wasn’t expecting to qualify,” McGlone said. “This is a sport where you have to wake up on the right side of the bed, and so does the animal.”
The equestrian team is a varsity sport with approximately 30 team horses. Their status as a varsity sport is a financial relief on the team because all the horse up-keep is paid by Berry.
“We are definitely the minority because most schools are club sports and the girls in the clubs have to pay for everything themselves,” Cooper said. “That is part of why we do so well because we have funding for the well-being of the horses.”
Even though the 30 team horses offer a variety for riders, all 30 horses are not always available on any given day.
“They are animals and they are athletes too,” Maggie Sanford, junior hunt seat rider, said. “They get hurt, they get injured, they get upset stomachs. It happens.”
When going to competition shows, each competitor draws the name of a random horse out of a hat to show. This prevents an unfair advantage by not allowing wealthier schools to dominate each competition by riding their own most expensive horses. The horse has a large contribution to the success of each competitor’s show. The draw allows for there to be an even playing field.
“In the four years of our program, you learn how to ride everything,” Cooper said. “I will hop on to any horse at any time, totally unafraid, and be able to get along with it.”
The random draw prepares the riders by introducing them to many different types of horses. The team became stronger due to the draw, because each member is exposed to many different types of horses.
The Western team and qualified Western individual riders will be traveling to Semis in Ocala, Florida on March 16-17 to compete for a chance to go to Nationals.