By ARIEL COOPER
After successful open rides and about a month of practice, the Cornell equestrian team is ready to get back in the saddle. The Red heads to Rochester this weekend to compete in its first regular season competition in a region which includes Alfred, Nazareth, Ithaca, Binghamton and other local colleges and universities. Rochester Institute of Technology is set to host this weekend’s doubleheader.
Coming off of a disappointing season which culminated in a third-place finish in the region — eliminating the squad’s chances of sending a team to regionals, zones or nationals — the Red is confident that its new roster will propel it to the top of the pack this season.
“This is probably the strongest team I think we’ve ever had,” junior co-captain Georgina de Rham said. “I think that [there is] depth in every division. … It almost makes it more challenging to develop the team roster going to each show because everyone I think is very strong.”
Junior co-captain Sofia Steinberger said that she is pleased with how practices have been going.
“I think everyone’s been practicing amazingly well,” she said. “Everybody just looks so good.”
Intercollegiate Horse Show Association shows are run differently from most horse shows. Riders randomly draw a horse to compete on in each show, adding an element of unpredictability to the competition.
“Sometimes it can be very challenging to translate things that are going really well at home to things going well at shows,” de Rham said. “Since the collegiate format is different than a regular format, it’s going to be new for a lot of people.”
Steinberger said that she is confident that the new recruits will make the adjustment in stride.
“There are a lot of new people and IHSA is different than any other type of competition but I feel like … if any year the freshman are going to do really well, this is the year they’re going to do it,” she said.
Freshman Victoria Whitworth said that she actually prefers the idea of competing on an unfamiliar horse.
“I actually like that idea because for me, the problem is always [that] I get more anxious on my own horse,” she said. “I know so much about them that it almost makes it worse for me. Not having any knowledge about the horse kind of makes it a little bit less stressful in a way.”
Since equestrian is not usually a team sport, the rookies will also experience riding with a team for the first time.
“The stress now will be riding for the team rather than just yourself,” Whitworth said.
Whitworth began riding around the age of six under the influence of her mother’s own passion for the sport. Now, Whitworth is learning what it is like to be part of a team.
“I’ve enjoyed the team atmosphere,” she said. “I really like Todd; he’s a great coach. Georgi and Sofia are really good captains and [keep] everybody organized [and] motivated.”
The captains hope that the show will bring the team together and that the riders will enter the competition with a positive attitude.
“I want [the rookies] to feel like competing in the IHSA is going to give them the chance to work towards a goal with a team and be part of a team experience that’s meaningful and rewarding for them,” de Rham said. “And I hope that the team is able to go into it with a really positive attitude and an honest and sportsmanlike approach to the competition.”
The squad will not know what it is up against this season until the first show begins.
“It’s hard for us to be too confident because we don’t know what our competition looks like yet,” Steinberger said.
Whitworth hopes that her teammates will be there for each other regardless of the outcome of this weekend’s show.
“I just hope that for the show, we can all be really good about supporting each other and [staying] positive no matter what happens,” she said.