While the equestrian team’s season may be over, two riders are still in the saddle, getting ready to compete against some of the best collegiate riders in the United States at this week’s Intercollegiate Horse Show Association national competition. Senior Bronwyn Scrivens and freshman Georgiana de Rham both qualified as individuals for this competition. Scrivens will be competing in the Cacchione class as her region’s high point rider, while de Rham will show in intermediate fences. This is the first time that Cornell has had a rider in the Cacchione class, according to head coach Chris Mitchell.
“I’m really, really excited,” Scrivens said. “It’s kind of an honor to be here and be a part of it, [but] it’s going to be really competitive because its the top 36 riders in the nation.”
The Cacchione class has three rounds and is the highlight of the competition, according to Mitchell. In the first round, riders send their horses over fences. Then, in the second round, 24 riders are called back to show on the flat. Finally, either all or a portion of the remaining competitors are called back for a last test. Mitchell is confident in Scrivens’ ability, but the competition will be fierce.
“Bronwyn has an excellent shot to move on,” he said. “Winning it all it’s hard to predict at that level, [but] my expectation honestly is [for her] to be in the top ten and she has every legitimate shot of getting there.”
Mitchell also has high hopes for de Rham.
“Georgi has a great chance of winning … [she]’s been riding really well, she’s been working really hard … and she’s got an excellent shot to win it all,” he said.
As a freshman, qualifying for nationals is a rarity.
“It’s kind of crazy, I’m kind of shocked that it happened,” she said. “I can’t really believe that I have [qualified for nationals].”
However, de Rham is not letting the pressure get to her.
“I’m just trying to enjoy it,” she said. “It’s really fun to be here.”
This year, the show is being held at a fairground in Raleigh, North Carolina. According to Mitchell, 86 horses from schools across the country will be participating in the competition. The Red even contributed two of its own horses to the show.
“Having our horses there and the horse show organizers asking us to provide our horses says a lot about our riding program and the quality of the horses,” said senior co-captain Katie Fink.
Fink has never been to nationals, but she said she is very proud of her teammates.
“Getting to nationals is a huge accomplishment and the girls who made it there should be very proud because we are very proud of them,” she said.
Although the riders have never seen many of the horses that will be in the drawings this week, the quality of the horses at the show and the extra time they are given to prepare has them looking forward to finding out who their mounts will be. According to junior co-captain Emily Kowalchik, who travels to nationals every year to school the Red’s horses, there are three full days to prepare the horses and riders for nationals. During a regular season show, the horses are not prepared until the morning of the competition.
“The level of horse talent here is far beyond anything any other part of the country has ever seen,” Mitchell said.
In order to prepare for the different types of mounts they may be given, both Scrivens and de Rham have been practicing on a variety of horses. The riders recently practiced on horses from Georgia Southern University, and they also traveled to the Interscholastic Equestrian Association nationals and rode some of the horses there, according to Scrivens. The IEA is the high school version of the IHSA.
“It’s always nice to have a good ride on an unfamilar horse,” de Rham said.
This year, the Red brought two rookies — freshmen Mary Beth Hannon and Sofia Steinberger — to volunteer to help out during the competition.
“The girls that are there helping are putting a lot of effort in … they’re doing it out of the goodness of their heart[s] and representing our team in a positive manner,” Fink said.
“I’m glad that they’re here and able to see what’s going on and bring that message back to the team so we all have something to work towards next year,” Kowalchik said. “I think it’s really important for everyone to see at some point why we’re doing this.”
Unfortunately for the Red, this will be its last show with Mitchell. After a 13 year career at Cornell, Mitchell will be moving to Randolph College to become the director of its riding program next year.
“I think we really are all happy for him and the opportunity for him and his family,” Kowalchik said. “It’s obviously a huge loss to the program but he is and will remain committed to finding us a quality replacement.”
The players are sad to see him go, because he has had a positive impact on their time riding at Cornell, according to Fink,
“He’s really provided a lot of mentorship … he’s really guided me through my college career and my riding career … and I think has been an inspiring leader,” she said. “Hopefully the replacement will be able to fill his shoes because … that’s a tall order.”
The team does not yet know who its new coach will be. Still, rather than dwelling on the uncertainties of the future, the riders are focusing their energy on succeeding at nationals and enjoying the competition.
“I think no matter how we finish off here we’re both pretty happy just to get to ride … we’re the lucky ones who actually get to go into the ring and show what we’ve got and what we’ve worked for all year,” Scrivens said.
“They’ve made it to the top now, so now they just get to enjoy it and I hope they do because they’ve worked hard and they deserve it,” Kowalchik said.