Equestrian team ahead of the pace

The equestrian team took 15 riders to the first horseshow of the season on Saturday at Smith College, showing against Amherst, Becker, College of the Holy Cross, Mount Holyoke, UMass-Amherst and Westfield State College. The team had a decent opening show, placing fourth after the three strongest teams in the region.

After receiving 18 season points at Smith, the Ephs are off to a strong start compared with last season; indeed, last year’s equestrian team averaged 12 points per show.

Having fallen only six points behind Smith, the captains are proud of the team’s accomplishment and are looking forward to knocking Smith out of third place. With a substantially larger team than in years past, the team is able to fill every division, and team members are confident that the team will be much more competitive in the region than in past years.

“We’re definitely going to be able to push Smith out of third place this year since we didn’t lose any riders and we have so many promising new rookies,” Stephanie Swanson ’05 said.

Facing considerable obstacles such as a lack of funding, a coach and varsity status, the team has had to work even harder than other schools to achieve similar goals.

“It’s frustrating that so many of the other teams are competing at the varsity level and have a much higher level of funding than we do,” Swanson said. “We’re working hard to overcome these obstacles, though. The captains have worked really hard to make the team a cohesive unit and their efforts have really paid off.”

This year, the team is expecting to make a real impact in the riding circuit. “I think that considering the circumstances going into our first show and the number of rookies competing, we had a very successful experience,” captain Melissa Daly ’03 said. “Because the professional at our barn was out of town all week, no one had lessons the week before the show, and everyone still went home with at least one ribbon. On top of that, we were six points away from beating Smith, the host team and a varsity organization.”

Elizabeth Hewitt ’06 was second in her first class in an IHSA event. As a rookie, she took home the highest ribbon of anyone on the team. Hewitt proved to be such a strong competitor in the walk-trot division that she is being evaluated and moved into a more advanced division.

Captain Lissa Ong ’04, placed third in both intermediate flat and intermediate fences. Captain Meg Bossong ’05 echoed Daly’s opinion about the team’s performance: “Smith was a good first show for us. Everyone rode really strongly, and it was a good learning experience for the rookies. It gives us a great foundation to build on for the rest of the year.

“A six point deficit at this point, which is what separates us from Smith, is very easy to make up. We’re looking forward to strong performances at Amherst on the 20th,” Bossong said.