Riding team canters to strong finishes

The equestrian team opened its spring season at Mount Holyoke College on March 2. The Williams team ranked as reserve high point college with 33 points, beating Smith College and the University of Massachusetts (UMass), two teams that usually earn the reserve title. Mount Holyoke, the high point college, had a perfect score of 49.

Novice rider Lindsey Taylor ’05 was pleased with the team’s performance at the Mount Holyoke show. “Competing against schools like UMass, Smith and Mount Holyoke where riding is a varsity sport, it is difficult for us to break into the top three at any given show,” Taylor said. “Last weekend, we showed them we could do it.” At Williams, equitation is a club sport.

Traditionally, Mount Holyoke, Smith and UMass are the most competitive teams. The Williams team also competes regionally against Amherst, Elms, Becker, Clark, Hampshire, Landmark, Westfield State and Springfield.

The competition consists of eight divisions. Riders in walk-trot, walk-trot-canter, novice flat, intermediate flat and open flat are judged on their ability to move the horse through his gaits, and to perform trials, such as sitting trot. There are three divisions that involve jumping. In novice, intermediate and open over fences, riders are required to complete the course of jumps smoothly and skillfully.

Riders are awarded points based on how they place in their class. A first place earns a rider seven points, second place garners five points and so on down to a sixth place finish earns which one point. Riders are able to “point out” of their division when they have 35 points. When a rider points out, he or she is eligible to compete at a regional competition. This year’s regionals will be held at Smith on the weekend of April 5.

The team’s success at the Mount Holyoke show was due to the contributions of every rider. The team won in nearly every division.

In the walk-trot division, Manny Holowatz ’04 placed third in his class. Colleen McNamara ’03 placed first in her class and pointed out of the walk-trot division and into the beginning walk-trot-canter division. Colleen will be going to the walk-trot regional competition later in the spring. Beginning walk-trot-canter rider Tracey Van Kempen ’05 placed fifth in her class.

Two juniors, Kate Carroll ’03 and Kristen Shapiro ’03, returned to the team after studying abroad for the fall semester. Both of the advanced walk-trot-canter riders placed very well in their first show back with the team. Shapiro placed third in her class, and Carroll won her class.

The riders in the novice division also performed very well at the show. Kyle Acebo ’05 placed fifth in her flat class. Meagan Bossong ’05 placed fourth in her flat class and first over fences. Taylor ’05 won her flat class, and placed fourth over fences. Lissa Ong ’04 placed second in her flat class and sixth over fences.

In the intermediate division, Melissa Daly ’03 rode well, placing third in flat and second over fences. In the fall season, Daly placed out of the novice division into the intermediate, and will be competing at regionals in the novice division.

Anna Renier ’03, the team’s open rider, pinned second in her flat class and fourth in her class over fences.

In addition to returning team members Shapiro and Carroll, the team also welcomed a new advanced walk-trot-canter rider, Ashley Brock ’05.

Last week’s competition at UMass also included new faces to the team. Stephanie Swanson ’05, a rider in the walk-trot division, and Julia Sergeon ’05, the team’s newest rider in the open division, competed in their first show. Sergeon placed sixth in her flat class and fifth over fences.

Two team members secured places at the regional competition. Carroll had a wonderful ride at the show and pointed out of her advanced walk-trot-canter division by winning her class. Lissa Ong placed second in both her flat and over fences classes. She pointed out of her novice flat division into intermediate.

“I think it’s really exciting this year how many of us have pointed out,” Carroll said, “and I think that it is really great to have such a large group going [to regionals].” Carroll, Ong, Daly and McNamara will all compete at regionals.

The team has hopes that Acebo will point out of her division at the season’s final show at Amherst at the end of the month. Acebo would need to amass three points at Amherst to do so, requiring a fourth place finish.

“Our team has grown dramatically this year, both in numbers and in spirit, and everything has clicked into place,” Ong raved. “It’s great to see the whole team work together to compete against the bigger schools and be so successful.”

The team closes its spring season on March 30 at Amherst, where the team hopes to secure fourth place in overall points.

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