Equestrian team successful in opening spring competitions

On Feb. 27, the Williams College equestrian team achieved unprecedented success at its first spring season show. Bigger and better than ever, with six strong newcomers filling out last semester’s already solid team, Williams rode to a second place finish among the 14 teams, including Amherst, that compete in Zone I, Region 3. Only the home team, Mount Holyoke, which had the advantage of riding its own horses, finished higher. Williams took home the ribbons for Reserve High Point College and for Reserve High Point Rider, with Anna Renier ’03 winning two blue ribbons and finishing second in a final ride-off with Mount Holyoke rider Zuzana Estvanik.

The Williams team opened the competition swinging; in the jumping classes that began the day, five of seven riders scored in the top three in their classes. Renier’s first place in the Intermediate division was complemented by second place finishes from Melissa Daly ’03 and team captain Grace Pritchard ’00 at the novice level. Heather Kallus ’03, riding at the topmost (Open) level in her first intercollegiate show, and Allison Robbins ’01 (Novice), back from a semester in Spain, both finished third.

Twelve Williams riders competed in the classes on the flat: Daly and Renier placed first; Caroline Norton ’03 had a strong first outing in Novice flat to finish second, as did Robbins, while Kimberly Wand ’02 in Walk-Trot and Jessica Purcell ’02 in Advanced Walk-Trot-Canter both placed third. Completing the roster were newcomers Jennifer Nail ’03 (fourth place in Walk-Trot) and Megan VanDyke ’03 (sixth place in Advanced Walk-Trot-Canter) while Kerstin Jager ’02 finished sixth in Beginning Walk-Trot-Canter. Kallus and Pritchard also finished sixth on the flat; Catherine O’Donnell ’03 had a pair of solid rides, placing fifth on the flat and sixth over fences in the Open division.

All day, the Williams team faced difficult conditions in the show ring, as Mount Holyoke’s horses were unusually lively and falls during the show totaled in the double digits. The Eph riders were unfazed, and not one was dumped during the course of the show, though riders from the three big teams in the region (Mount Holyoke, Smith and Massachussetts) hit the dirt in numerous classes. The Williams team’s composure and skill were rewarded when the overall point totals were announced: Williams, with a total of 33 points earned by the point riders in each division, edged out UMass, a team that has gone to the national finals for many of the past 10 years, with 32, finishing behind only Mount Holyoke with 42 points overall. The other big player in the region, Smith, wasn’t in the top three, so its point totals were not announced; rival Amherst was even more soundly trounced than last season, finishing no higher than fifth.

On March 4 at UMass, the Williams team was handicapped by the absence of both Daly and Renier; the former was competing for Williams at ECACs in track, while the latter had been kicked by a horse during training the previous day.

Nevertheless, the team rode very well, earning universal praise from coach Lynda Gross of Oak Hollow Farm on Henderson Road in Williamstown. Amid tough competition, Williams held the line with a solid set of third and fourth place finishes. Kallus, Norton, O’Donnell, Robbins and Pritchard all had excellent rides over fences, while highlights on the flat included third places from Norton and Kate Abbott ’00 (Beginning Walk-Trot-Canter); fourths for O’Donnell and Purcell; a fifth for Kallus; sixths for Pritchard and Verena Arnabal ’01 (team treasurer, Advanced Walk-Trot Canter); and a beautiful ride in the hardest class of the day from Robbins, earning her a second place ribbon and qualifying her for the Novice Flat class at Regionals at Smith on April 15.

The next two shows of the season are over Spring Break, but the dedicated Williams team is planning to turn out for both of them. The team has no intention of being dislodged from its current fourth place standing in Zone I, Region 3 – higher than any in recent years – when the season finishes at Mount Holyoke on April 2. Look for the team to become even stronger and more competitive next year as word continues to spread that the Williams Equestrian Team is a serious player in intercollegiate competition. Anyone interested in riding, either in shows or for fun and PE credit, is encouraged to contact Grace Pritchard (00gmp) or Verena Arnabal (01va).