The Cornell equestrian team is on the rise.
For proof, just look at the results from last weekend: second at the Morrisville show, falling by only three points to defending regional champion Skidmore and losing the show in the final event of the day.
“We have probably the deepest team out there,” head coach Chris Mitchell said.
The squad consists of 27 riders, led by senior co-captains Brooke Hafets and Laura Rubinate. There are also 12 newcomers to the team, who have already made significant contributions.
In the first show, sophomore Bonnie Arzuaga and freshman Patty Kahwaty finished second and fifth in the Walk-Trot Division, respectively. Kahwaty first got on a horse just six weeks ago, while Arzuaga had only been on a horse a few times before arriving on East Hill.
“Come spring semester I expect that they will be winning their classes,” Hafets said of the pair.
This improvement is in large part due to the willingness of the members to endure 6 a.m. practices.
“It very much is a cooperative effort,” Rubinate said of the morning work outs.
Mitchell splits the squad into two groups, with each group lead by one of the captains.
One group practices on Monday and Wednesday mornings, while the other group works on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
In these sessions, a team is split into two groups, with one set riding first and the other tending to the care of the stables, and then the groups reverse roles. This means that there are never more than seven riders in the ring at a time, allowing Mitchell to help his squad individually.
“It gives me a better opportunity to coach, and it gives the girls a better opportunity to just ride,” Mitchell said.
Now that the team has more riders and practice everyday (a new invention of the second-year coach), the Red feels that it has a legitimate chance to knock Skidmore from the top of the standings.
“We are looking to tackle Skidmore as the regional champion,” Mitchell said.
In order to do this, the team will rely on its depth, as it can have a competent rider in every section of every division. Therefore it can deny points to other schools, especially Skidmore, since it normally brings only two riders per division.
Due to the performance of the riders last year, many people qualified for higher divisions, leaving the team suspect at the lower brackets, since once a rider qualifies for a higher division she can no longer compete in the lower event. However, with riders like Arzuaga, Kahwaty, and senior Missy Potter in the Advanced Walk-Trot-Canter, the team should do well in these events again. Mitchell has particularly high hopes for Potter.
“Missy Potter is a standout,” he said. “I didn’t do a most improved player last year, because I think in all fairness everyone’s riding went up a level. But if I had, it would have gone to Missy Potter.”
The higher levels are also stacked with Red riders, including the Open Division.
“We have an army of Open riders,” Hafets laughed. “There are about five of us that could win on any day.”
And while the squad is excited about this, it remains focused on getting as many people possible qualified for Regionals, and trying to get the team into Zones (the event after Regionals), and the ultimate goal of Nationals in Atlanta, Ga.
Archived article by J.V. Anderton