Haiden Widener, Campus Carrier Sports Editor
Junior Madison Eiberger started riding horses at a birthday party when she was a young girl, and now she is headed to nationals.
Originally from Gainesville, Ga., Eiberger went to a friend’s pony birthday party when she was six years old, and said her parents knew right then that they had to get her into riding.
“None of the other kids would touch them,” she said. “But I wouldn’t get off. My mom actually had to physically pull me off.”
From that point on she has been riding horses. She owned her own before coming to Berry, but was forced to sell him due to the difficulties of bringing a horse to college. But that sacrifice is a decision she doesn’t regret.
“Berry would be a different place for me if I didn’t have the team,” she said.
Being on the equestrian team isn’t the only time she rides horses. In her spare time while she is home, she does something called “catch riding,” which is when owners need experienced riders to show their horse in a show.
Eiberger decided to focus on equestrian once she got to Berry.
“I was either going to golf or ride in college,” she said. “But riding was always my number one and Berry just happened to work out perfectly.”
While she has been on the equestrian team for the last three seasons, this will be her first appearance at nationals for an individual event.
The post season works the same as any other college sport. First riders qualify for regionals, then they move on to zones and then advance to nationals.
Last season Eiberger qualified for regionals, but missed making it to zones by one place.
“This year I was like, that’s not going to happen again,” she said.
She qualifies for individual novice flat. This doesn’t require jumping and instead is all about performing routines using your leg strength.
“You just have to use all of your leg strength to guide the horse,” Eiberger said.
While she is the only rider from the Hunt Seat team to make it to nationals this year, the Western team qualified as a whole, and also had individuals advance.
“As a team, (Hunt Seat) had some really bad luck last weekend,” Eiberger said. “There was one bad horse in each of the draws, and we got that horse. So we made the best of our rides, but it’s hard to do when you have the bad horse.”
The second Eiberger found out she was advancing to nationals, Coach Margaret Knight added extra practices into her schedule. Eiberger says that this is really helping to prepare her for the competition.
“I’m riding as much as possible, and riding different horses,” she said. “Sometimes I ride easier horses to work more on myself and my leg strength, but sometimes I ride harder horses to work on working with them.”
The show will be held in Lexington, Ky. on May 4, and Eiberger is ready to compete with confidence and poise .
“I’m looking forward to just being there,” she said. “I feel like I’ve been riding the best that I have been since I was six. I don’t know what happened, but this year something just clicked and I’ve had a pretty good year, so I feel like I can get out there and place well.”