By ARIEL COOPER
The Lehman Farms arena in Rochester, N.Y., bled red this weekend when the Cornell equestrian team took the competition by storm. The squad opened its season in spectacular fashion, winning both of its first shows of the season to snag a 20-point lead in the regional standings.
“It feels like we’ve achieved this huge milestone,” junior co-captain Georgiana de Rham said. “We really wanted to have a positive start and we really wanted to be strong, and I feel like we made a lot of big changes and big efforts to really try to be successful and we were … and it’s just really rewarding.”
The strong start mirrors the beginning of the team’s 2011-12 season, when the Red was nearly undefeated.
“It felt like [our freshman year] again,” junior co-captain Sofia Steinberger said.
The Red put in a solid performance on Saturday, sweeping the fences divisions and finishing just eight points shy of a perfect score, according to Steinberger. Sunday’s show was a little bit more challenging, but the team rallied and took the winning ribbon once again.
“Everybody worked really really hard and we gave them all the tools to be able to go up to the show and do well and they did,” head coach Todd Karn said. “[On] Sunday, we were off to a little bit of a slow start, but everybody picked it up. I think it was hard to have the energy flowing the same way the second day, [but] we picked it up and won Sunday as well and everybody was very pleased.”
Intercollegiate Horse Show Association shows feature both team and individual competition. The highlight of the Red’s individual achievements was the high point rider contest between freshmen Amanda Ko and Shana Coffey on Saturday. Ko shows in the open flat and intermediate fences divisions, while Coffey competes in novice for both flat and fences. When the riders won all of their classes on Saturday, they then faced off for the title of high point rider. After being asked a series of knowledge-based questions, Ko was named high point rider while Coffey received reserve high point rider.
“It was completely friendly,” Ko said of the competition.
Coffey agreed, saying, “It was a lot of fun.”
“It wasn’t super competitive, we were kind of just happy to be there,” Coffey said.
Karn said that he was pleased to see Ko and Coffey end up in the high point ride off.
“It’s unusual to end up in a high point ride off so for us to have two riders in that is terrific,” he said.
During practice, the squad has been focusing on the fundamentals of riding to ensure that each rider has a solid foundation, according to Karn.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time just on the basics,” he said. “We did a lot of individual drills, whether it be a gymnastic or riding without stirrups on the flat, figure eight patterns … a lot of the basics so when we got there, everybody was pretty well equipped.”
The Red’s next show, which will be hosted by Nazareth College, will also be held at Lehman Farm, according to de Rham.
Steinberger hopes that the riders will have a more relaxed attitude at the next competition.
“We’re all Cornell students … and I think sometimes that causes us to go into the ring and be upset if we make one small mistake,” she said. “Sometimes, we stress ourselves out so much that we don’t do well because of the stress we’re putting on ourselves.”
However, the strong team spirit was able to keep the riders at ease this weekend. The rookies found the veterans extremely helpful when it came to preparing for the show, according to Coffey and Ko.
“I was super nervous going into [the show], but the team is so supportive and everyone’s so helpful and Todd prepares us really well,” Coffey said. “It was nice having a bunch of older teammates there to coach us through it.”
Ko said she was comforted by the veterans’ knowledge and experience.
“It’s definitely calming when you just go ask a question and someone immediately has the answers,” she said.
The squad made sure to support each rider as she competed, according to de Rham and Coffey. It seemed as if the arena was filled with red.
“Sofia and I looked over our shoulders at one point and there was just this sea of red jackets at the in-gate,” de Rham said.
Overall, the Red is pleased with the strong start to the season, Karn said.
“It shows what we can accomplish right out of the gate,” Karn said. “[We are] being supportive of one another and working hard and keeping our skill set honed. I think it’s a really good start and I hope we [carry the momentum] all the way through.”