Equestrian team saddling up for regionals

Dan Pavlik, Campus Carrier Asst. Sports Editor

Emily Burroughs | VALKYRIE

This past weekend, the last equestrian show of the year was held at Berry. Western finished first and the Hunt Seat finished second. 

Equestrian is a sport that stands on its own—many look over it because it is not a sport of action and brute force, it is a sport of subtlety and adaptation to one’s environment, specifically the horse.

There are two main disciplines of the sport: Western and Hunt Seat.

In Western, the rider is given a specific pattern on a flat track. The pattern consists of different twists and turns that highlight whether the horse should be walking or galloping. Riders are dressed in  traditional western horse clothing and typically wear cowboy hats.

Hunt Seat is a little different. Riders are also given a specific pattern but this time the track is not flat. The rider has to navigate the horse through a series of jumps and hurdles. Women dress in more modern horse-riding attire.

Berry College’s own equestrian team encompasses both. This close knit group of 30 women spend most of their days at the Gunby Equestrian Center, or as they call it, the barn. It holds the horses’ quarters and everything needed to take care of them. It is the team’s job to take care of their assigned horse for that day. 

Equestrian is a sport for the athlete that loves horses. Senior Western rider Elizabeth Poczobut is one of those athletes. Poczobut has been riding for as long as she can remember.

“I started riding horses when I was two,” Poczobut said. “My family has horses, it’s kind of something I just grew up in, and I love it.” 

One of the unique things about horses, Poczobut explained, is that each horse is different. This is the exciting challenge that attracts many to the equestrian sport. 

“They’re like humans. No horse has the same personality,” Poczobut said. “That’s the fun part about equestrian. It’s showing that horsemanship and being able to adapt to the individual quirks of each horse.” 

Berry College attracts many experienced riders like junior Hunt Seat Maddy Eiberger who, similar to Poczobut, began riding horses young at the age of six.  

The two both favored the fact that Berry rides in the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) instead of the NCAA. The main difference between the two is that teams in the IHSA gets a horse name drawn out of a hat come time for the show, and that is their horse for the day. Riders don’t know which horse they will have until it is time to saddle up.

In the NCAA however, riders compete on the same horse. This highlights the rider and attempts to more adequately show which rider is sounder in their technique. However, it takes away the rider’s ability to adapt to a new horse, which is what the sport is all about. 

“I like the horsemanship. Having to know how to calm down a horse and make it do what you want on a dime while being judged is what it’s all about,” Eiberger said. 

 That’s why a lot of the riders are so keen about the IHSA. As Eiberger went on to explain, sometimes it doesn’t matter if you’re the best rider in the ring. 

“You could get the best horse in the ring or the worst,” Eiberger said. “It’s just the luck of the draw.” 

Equestrian is a life style. To say the sport is an investment of time is an understatement, and that becomes evident on show day. 

Sophomore Western rider Kinsey Figliolini says waking up at the crack of dawn and not returning until dark is pretty common. 

“We get up at 5 a.m. to spend literally all day at the barn,” Figliolini said. “That’s how much we love what we do.” 

The equestrian team will head to Auburn University on March 4 to compete in the IHSA regionals.  

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