Equestrian team sends six to nationals

Claire Voltarel, Campus Carrier Sports Editor

Six members of the Berry equestrian team will continue on to the May postseason and compete at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships in Harrisburg, Pa., May 3-6. The IHSA National Championships hosts five different classes with 12 riders competing per class. The classes are based off of the skill level the riders compete at during the season. 

The Western team travelled to New York in late March to compete in Semifinals. The weekend resulted in an overall fourth place for the team and a national’s qualification for juniors Sarah Cooper, Mary Catherine Hix, Allie Robertson and Alex Sievenpiper. Each individual earned the qualification by placing fourth or higher in their event. 

On the hunt seat team, the Vikings finished third overall in zones at Savannah, Ga., with sophomores Andrea Hill and Maggie Sanford placing in the top two to qualify for nationals as well. For Sanford, her first national’s qualification has yet to emotionally sink in. 

“Just being able to ride on this team is something I’m so thankful for,” Sanford said. “I’m still in shock from it.”

According to Sanford, however, most of her nerves are focused on flying for the first time in her life. 

Both Cooper and Robertson have participated in the Western nationals the past two years, but they look forward to a change of scenery for this year’s competition in Pennsylvania, as the last two competitions took place in Lexington, Ky. 

“I’m super excited to see the new venue,” Cooper said. “We kind of know what to expect, but it’s going to be a whole new situation.”

For Cooper and Robertson, having competed in this scenario before, they feel more secure in their confidence going into nationals. But regardless of experience, the riders still feel nerves for the competition. As a whole, the goal for all three riders is to have fun in riding the best they can. 

All three Vikings also noted the hard work the team has put into both fall and spring seasons which contributed to such success.

“I really focused on getting stronger throughout the year and fixing the little things about riding,” Sanford said. 

According to Sanford, riding as much as possible always contributes to improvements. Cooper also noted the importance and benefits of year-round training in consistently building skills and confidence. 

“While exhausting, we are fortunate that we are in season for the fall and the spring because we have constant lessons and are constantly striving to be better,” Cooper said. 

According to riders, much of their struggle competing is overcoming the mental challenges a show can present, especially as a more individualized sport. 

“You can have the skills to ride all day long, but once you get into that show setting, everything is completely different,” Roberston said. “Being able to remain solid especially going into post season is really important”

For Cooper and Robertson, going into a show with a mindset of confidence and positivity with the plan of attack, as opposed to simply trying not to fail, proves successful and more fun when competing.

“I changed my mindset to ‘I don’t want to focus on making mistakes, I want to focus on doing everything to the greatest degree it can be done,’” Cooper said. 

Sanford also noted the importance of self-confidence and awareness when competing.

“We all go through rough patches and have bad rides or the horses don’t have their best days,” Sanford said. “It’s important to stay positive and remember the journey the team has been on this year.” 

Another challenge to the sport is remaining united as teammates when two Vikings are facing up against each other, which can happen in several events. But both juniors noted the supportive and selfless atmosphere the team has, and the pride that comes with being runner-up to a fellow Viking.

“At the end of the day, we are all for Berry,” Robertson said. 

After nationals, four riders will compete for their last collegiate season in the fall of 2018. Robertson is excited to see the opportunities that berry has given her take off after graduation, but the juniors on the team look forward to their last season as a Viking. Cooper and Robertson explained a unique aspect of the sport is their ability to continue riding after their college career has ended. 

“We will be able to take everything we learned in college and keep using it,” Cooper said. 

The Vikings look forward to their season stretching after this academic year, are proud of the success they’ve had in the regular season, and are simply excited to share such a unique experience with each other. 

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