Equestrian team prepares for Amherst show

The spring equestrian season came and left in the blink of an eye, as there were only four shows scheduled for the season in our region. Amherst hosts the only remaining show at Biscuit Hill Farm, scheduled during spring break.

During the season, however, the team and its members have made huge transitions and improvements. The first show of the season, hosted by alumni of schools in the region, was a poor display of the team’s talents. Many members of the team were out of practice and out of shape, and even when riders were competitive, the judge did not favor the Williams team. “Even though we didn’t finish as well as we were hoping we would, spending the weekend together was a unifying experience. Despite the long trek to Rhode Island, I hope the show is a yearly tradition,” Mary Flynn ’04 said. “The show was somewhat disappointing, but we still had a ton of fun. I’m glad we went,” Rosie Smith ’06 said. The team received 18 points, last year’s season average, but placed fifth overall.

The second show of the season was hosted by Mount Holyoke College, by far the most formidable competitor. Riding is not only a varsity sport at the school, but is also incredibly well-funded. They have a beautiful facility and two excellent coaches, plus a stable of very nice horses. “I felt that the surprise of getting Equestrian Team baseball caps from the parents of Kate Carrol [’03] at 6 a.m., who were unable to attend the show, really set the tone of the day. The hats gave us a unified look, and we acted and competed like a team,” said co-Captain Melissa Daly ’03.

The courses were long and complicated, asking technical questions of the over-fences riders. “Just from talking to the team, I could see that the riders who were jumping were excited by the intricate and challenging courses. I think the team really rose to the occasion,” Smith said.

Lindsey Taylor ’05 won her Novice Fences class and pointed into Intermediate. This is particularly important because the team’s only intermediate rider will be graduating in the spring. Taylor, looking back on the show, emphasized its difficulty. “The Mount Holyoke course was definitely more technical and demanding than other intercollegiate courses I’ve seen,” she said. “This can really work to your advantage, though, since it gives you an opportunity to show certain skills and knowledge that aren’t required on a less challenging course.”

Additionally, it was the last show for former co-captain Anna Renier ’03, the team’s strongest rider and Open division pointed rider. “I was especially impressed with Anna’s riding. It was her last intercollegiate horse show, and she rode incredibly well. We will be sad to see her gone, and her presence on the team as a rider and as a leader will be missed,” Daly said.

The team came in third, tied with Springfield, and beat its closest competitor, Smith. Smith is a varsity team with its own facility and coach. All season, Williams has been neck and neck with them, competing for the third-place spot. Pinning higher than Smith at an incredibly challenging horseshow was really rewarding for many of the riders and the team as a whole. “I think one of the most important things to remember is that for a long time, the Big Three schools [Mount Holyoke, UMass and Smith] have dominated, and all the rest of the schools have been a distant fourth,” co-captain Meg Bossong ’05 said. “Now within the last couple years, and especially this past year, it has become the Big Three and then Williams, with an essentially student-run club sport program in a very close fourth place. We’ve made the whole region re-evaluate the competition, and we have especially challenged Smith. The majority of the other club teams at least have coaches. We’re doing this all on our own.”

This past weekend, the third show of the season was hosted at UMass. The show was fast paced and exciting, albeit slightly stressful. The show started and the team did incredibly well from the first class of the day, placing fourth, right after Smith, by only one point. Co-captain Daly pointed out of the intermediate division by coming in second over fences and fourth on the flat. “It was a positive note to end on, but I am frustrated that I will never get to ride in Open,” Daly said of her performance on Saturday. Open is the most advanced division in intercollegiate competition. Daly will be graduating in the spring, and is unable to attend the show hosted by Amherst over spring break.

“Tracey Van Kempen ’05 won her advanced Walk-Trot-Canter class against some very difficult MHC, UMass and Smith competition. Tracey is one of those people who has worked incredibly hard since freshman year, and you can see that coming out in her performance,” Bossong said.

While many riders won’t be able to attend Amherst’s show while Williams is on spring break, a small but strong group will represent the team. After Amherst, Regionals are scheduled for April 5, Zones on April 12 and Nationals the weekend of May 3-5. This year, several riders have qualified for Regionals and will be strong competitors to go on to Zones. Kristen Shapiro ’03, pointed out of Advanced Walk-Trot-Canter into Novice. Lindsey Taylor, ’05 pointed out of Novice flat and fences into Intermediate with an incredible 70 points. Daly will also represent the team at Regionals in the Intermediate division, having pointed out of both flat and fences this past weekend.

“This team has undergone nothing short of complete metamorphosis over the last four years. It promises great accomplishments and recognition for Williams. I hope it continues to receive such whole-hearted efforts from the students and increasing support from the administration in the coming years,” Renier said. Bossong is also looking forward to the future, pointing out that the team’s season average of points per show has steadily risen over the past four years. She is apprehensive, however: “One thing that the team is facing this coming year, which we didn’t this year, is the loss of a very solid core group of seniors. Carroll and Shapiro have been integral members of the team, helping the new riders to adjust to the routine,” she said. “Additionally, their parents have been a big part of our parent booster club, which has had a huge presence at shows. Anna and Melissa’s leadership has helped to mold the identity of this team and transform it from just another club sport to a team that is both competitive and respected by our competition. They’ll be sorely missed.”

Taylor reflected on the past season and the future. “Our team this year has been incredibly competitive with the Big Three. We are providing legitimate and fierce competition to schools where riding is a heavily funded and coached varsity sport. That speaks volumes for the strength of our team. From the Walk-Trot division to Open, every rider is equally important to the success of the team and we are fortunate to have strong riders in every division.”