September 26, 2011

EQUESTRIAN | Otterbein Opener Provides Clarity With Season on Tap

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The equestrian team rode back into the show ring on Saturday for the first time this semester at the Otterbein Tournament of Champions. The competition posed a unique challenge for the riders when compared to their regular season shows.

According to head coach Chris Mitchell, this show did not allow the team to bring as many members as it normally would, and it also had long breaks dispersed throughout the day. This format varies greatly from the fast-paced shows to which the Red is more accustomed. Still, the squad took the competition in stride and returned home with four ribbons.

The day started strong with senior co-captain Katie Fink winning the intermediate flat class. She then went on to compete in the tournament medal class alongside junior teammate Emily Webster. Both riders finished in the Top-10 out of 20 riders, with Fink coming in eighth place and Webster finishing second.

Junior co-captain Emily Kowalchik also had two strong rides, finishing fourth in both intermediate flat and intermediate fences. Senior Melissa Kenny rounded out the day with a sixth place ribbon in the novice fences class. Overall, the Red scored a total of 14 points.

“It was a good performance by our team for our first show and now we know where our strengths and weaknesses are,” Webster said.

“We rode pretty well,” Mitchell agreed. “Katie Fink started off with a big win — [that was] what we needed.”

Sophomore Alyx Cheng had a particularly interesting experience at Saturday’s contest.      Competing in her first show as a member of the Red, Cheng was tasked with riding the toughest horse at the event, according to Mitchell.

Unlike a regular horse show, the riders in Intercollegiate Horse Show Association competitions do not compete on their own horses, but rather draw a horse randomly from the selection entered into the show. Although Cheng did not place, she was pleased with her performance — as was her head coach.

“[She] handled everything very well,” Mitchell said.

Cheng constantly reminded herself to stay calm, stay collected and do her best.

“It’s a whole different situation … [to] get into the ring and not know the horse,” Cheng recalled. “[But] I’m glad to have one under my belt.”

The tournament also allowed the Red to size up its competition as the squad begins working toward its goals. Of all the teams that were represented in the show, Mitchell expects to see six of them at nationals; however, with that contest seven months away the team’s focus is on the upcoming regional competitions.

The first of those shows will take place over Halloween weekend at RIT. The Red faces a regional schedule that includes Binghamton, Buffalo, Nazareth, Alfred and Hamilton, among others, in the coming weeks.

According to Mitchell, the number of shows packed into the end of the semester — which includes one home show on Nov. 13 — will keep the team extremely busy. Fortunately, the squad has several weeks of practice scheduled to prepare for the season ahead.

“We just have to go back home … fine tune a few things … [and] start our quest towards the championship,” Mitchell said.

Original Author: Ariel Cooper