It will take more than a loss to unhorse the equestrian team this season. Despite the squad’s third place finish after its doubleheader at Alfred last weekend, many of the riders were still able to advance to the regional championships that will be held on March 9.
Although equestrian is traditionally an individual sport, the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association features both individual and team competition. At every show, each school chooses riders whose scores are combined for the overall team score. Those who are not showing as part of the team still have the opportunity to ride as individuals, and the points that they earn eventually propel them into higher divisions. With 257 points, Cornell was unable to surpass Alfred and Ithaca, who took first and second place with 271 and 263 points, respectively. Alfred’s regional championship win earns the Saxons a spot at Zones as a team. The Red’s riders who compete at regionals, however, will have a chance to advance to Zones as well.
Senior tri-captain Emily Kowalchik felt that while the Red’s riding was strong, its opponents continued to kick up the competition as the season progressed.
“They took last year as a learning experience and improved on it,” she said.
Last season, the squad trampled its competition — remaining undefeated until its last regular season show. This season, the other teams were not prepared to let the Red steal their thunder.
“We weren’t expecting the level of riding from the schools that we saw,” senior tri-captain Zofia Hilton said.
While the team is disappointed by the loss, the riders are pleased with the progress they made over the season and are looking forward to regionals.
“It might not have been a successful season in terms of where we ended up … but there is more than one way to have a successful season,” senior tri-captain Emily Webster said. “I feel like our team has made a lot of progress, and the ribbons will come.”
According to Webster, 12 Cornell riders qualified for regionals this year. Seniors Erika Hooker and Briana Boub advanced to regionas for the first time in their careers. Hooker qualified in both novice flat and fences, while Boub will compete in the advanced walk-trot-canter division.
Hooker has already moved up to the intermediate flat division, but will return to novice flat for regionals. Her rides this weekend helped to prepare her for the upcoming competition, which will also take place at Alfred.
“I qualified for novice flat last semester, so I’ve been showing in intermediate for a while now and that has really prepared me to go back to novice for regionals,” Hooker said. “My novice fences rides Saturday and Sunday had, as Todd puts it, ‘some brilliant moments.’ I definitely had a few missed distances to the fences, but it’s IHSA, and we don’t always have to be perfect to win.”
Freshman Meridith Meyer also qualified for regionals in the open flat and fences division. In addition to this achievement, she placed second in the Cacchione Cup competition with 69 points behind Ithaca sophomore Maria Van Buskirk.
The Cacchione Cup is an individual competition between the riders in the open division. The Cacchione winner in each region goes on to compete in a special class at IHSA nationals. Last season, Bronwyn Scrivens ’12 became the first Cornell rider to win the Cacchione. She went on to place 11th at nationals.
“I am very excited and lucky to be going to regionals in both my divisions as a freshman,” Meyer said. “Coming in second in the Cacchione was really the icing on the cake. I did not expect to do so well in my first year on the team, and I am unbelievably grateful for all the opportunities the team [has given] me to succeed.”
Since the Red’s semi-annual home show was canceled this semester, the entire team made the trip to Alfred, N.Y., for last weekend’s doubleheader.
“It was good to have everybody there and have that team camaraderie feeling throughout the day,” Hilton said.
Historically, the Red has been very successful at its home shows. The squad had a near-perfect day at its fall show this season, with all of the team riders earning first place in their classes. Still, there is no telling how the second home show could have affected the season’s outcome.
“It does give you the home advantage [because] you know the horses a little bit better,” Hilton said. “Nobody can predict how it would have turned out, though.”
The Red may not have ended the season with a win, but the team still has a lot of positive moments to focus on.
“Even though we didn’t come in first in our region, I am so proud of all that [the] team has accomplished this season,” Boub said. “I think more than anything — more than winning or the ribbons — it is important that we are all able to support each other and really come together as a team, and I saw so many outstanding examples of this. There were so many great individual moments that it is hard to be anything but happy with our results this past weekend.”
Original Author: Ariel Cooper