February 16, 2010

Equestrian Aims for Win at Home Invite

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The equestrian team will kick off the second half of its season this Sunday on its home turf at the Oxley Equestrian Center. The Red will host 14 other teams, including Hartwick, Ithaca, Morrisville and its toughest competitor, Skidmore.

Skidmore is currently ranked No. 1 in the region, with Cornell trailing closely behind at No. 2. So far this season, Cornell has not beaten the Thoroughbreds, and the Red is certainly feeling the pressure. But while the riders are busy suppressing nerves, setting jumps and practicing routines, nothing can deter them from this weekend’s ultimate goal: to win.

“Skidmore has a very strong team this year. They’ll be very difficult to beat,” said head coach Chris Mitchell. “But we’re riding our horses in our ring with our jumps. Our chances are good and this is our best shot to win.”

Mitchell explained the logic behind this: Following this show, Cornell will compete at the Van Lennep Riding Center in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where it will be extremely difficult to beat home team Skidmore. Then the Red will travel to Hartwick. Weather is a significant factor there since the ring (while indoor) is not heated, which adds an extra component of uncertainty and nerves to the competition. And, after all, Cornell does have the home-field advantage at this show.

That being said, the home-field advantage in an equestrian show does not just denote a bigger fan base and a more comfortable setting. In addition to practicing for their events, the riders must prepare the ring, prepare the horses, make sure the judges are content and essentially coordinate the entire competition.

“It makes for a long weekend,” Mitchell said. “By the time we get to our horse show on Sunday, we’ve already put 10 hours of work into it.”

Junior rider Morgan Broccoli agreed.

“We don’t have to travel and we get to ride our own horses that we practice with every day, so there’s definitely some familiarity there,” Broccoli said. “But we have to run the show. It’s always more difficult running the whole competition and competing at the same time.”

Broccoli is among four of Cornell’s riders that have already qualified for regionals. Broccoli is qualified in the walk-trot-canter event. Also qualified are senior Zoe Samuel in intermediate flat, sophomore Charmaine Tan in walk-trot and sophomore Katie Fink in novice fences. Senior rider Heather Sherman hopes to qualify in the open flat this weekend.

“It’s definitely a personal goal of mine to qualify for regionals,” Sherman said. “I’d love to win at my last home competition.”

Also looking to qualify for nationals are seniors Brooke Cagwin and Nicole Finazzo. Mitchell says he expects particularly good performances from them as well as from junior Kelsey Craig and rookies Joan Kim and Joelle Jach.

Mitchell acknowledged the pressure the team is feeling as their final home show of the season approaches, stating that this is when he relies most upon the elder riders.

“This is where veteran leadership steps up because they’ve been through it before so they know what to do,” Mitchell said. “It helps alleviate the pressure, especially from the younger [members of the team].”

The Red has yet to take first at a show in the 2009-10 season, and it will certainly be a challenge to beat eight-time regional champion Skidmore, but Cornell’s hopes are high.

“We show against them a lot so this is nothing different than usual,” Broccoli said of Skidmore. “But we’re always looking to do well against our toughest competitor and hopefully beat them this time.”

Original Author: Katie Schubauer