Last Saturday, as a quiet Williamstown slept through the cold hours before sunrise, the Williams Riding Team woke at 5 a.m. to make the one hour trip to Fox Meadow Farm at Smith College, for its first show of the season.
Waking up at the crack of dawn is something to get accustomed to but the success of the day made it all worth it. This year’s team, consisting of nine members, including four new members, pushed Williams to a third place finish behind Smith, Mount Holyoke and Umass, which tied for second in the region.
Williams placed over Amherst, which always seems to be neck to neck with Williams for overall placing. It was a very successful day for the team as Williams competed against and beat schools with extensive riding programs, by virtue of the Ephs scoring higher in the overall points totals. These foes included such schools as Smith and Mount Holyoke, which have more than forty members on the team.
The day started off with the competitors making their way to the ring to compete in the over-fences classes, ranging from Open to Novice in difficulty level. Grace Pritchard ’00, team captain, gave a stellar performance which only boosted team spirit, coming in first in both her over fences class and her flat class at the novice level.
“I’m still in shock, never having scored higher than third before,” Pritchard said. “But I feel like I’m riding better and concentrating better than before, and winning is a great feeling, I have a cool three colored ribbon on my wall!”
This year’s First-years, competing for the fist time at the college level, put in solid rides all the way through and helped push Williams to their third-place finish. Catherine O’Donnell ’03 placed second in the Open flat class, Anna Renier ’03 landed a first place on the flat and a fifth over fences at the Intermediate level, while Melissa Daly ’03 placed second over fences and fourth on the flat at the Novice level.
New member Kersten Jager ‘02 had a solid first performance finishing sixth in her class for Beginner walk-trot-canter, while Verena Arnabal ’01 finished third in the same division. Sophomore Jessica Purcell came in fourth in her class of Advanced walk-trot-canter.
Veteran team member Shirin Fozi ’01, whose first place finish in last year’s Regionals qualified her to compete in the Zones competition where she placed fifth, put in a solid ride on the flat and over fences.
Kimberly Wand ’02 also had a strong ride representing Williams in the beginner walk-trot division.
The Williams Riding Team is very eager this year to make the team stronger and more well known on campus. Although in recent years the team has become bigger and more prominent in competitions, it relies heavily on the enthusiasm and commitment of its members to function as a team.
Lynda Gross, owner of Oak Hollow Farm on Henderson road in Williamstown, acts as the team’s coach, providing guidance and support throughout the year with the several organizational tasks involved with The Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) and during competitions.
Competing against much bigger schools that have funding for strong and extensive riding programs is not new to the Williams Equestrian Team. Riding programs at schools such as Smith, Mount Holyoke and UMass aren’t only funded by their colleges, but they have several coaches, regular practices and spectacular facilities to accommodate the many members of their team.
“I am very impressed that the Williams team who only rides a few times a week can compete and win over teams such as Smith and Mount Holyoke which have access to spectacular riding facilities and who ride everyday,” said Jager.
The Williams Equestrian is anxious to promote itself around the Williams campus and urges anyone who has any interest in riding, regardless of experience, to contact Grace Pritchard or Verena Arnabal.
It is not necessary to compete in events to participate on the team, and any Williams student can take riding lessons at Oak Hallow Farm to earn gym credits.