Equestrian team rides to high finishes

Watch a commercial for a sports car sometime. They usually mention horsepower. But the women of the Seton Hill University (SHU) equestrian team have a different definition of horsepower.
Their version has rocketed them to a fourth place standing out of 14 teams and the season is not yet complete.
Seven active riders compete in different divisions based first on their level of experience and secondly on how they fare in competition.


By Meredith Ponczak,
Senior Staff Writer
Watch a commercial for a sports car sometime. They usually mention horsepower. But the women of the Seton Hill University (SHU) equestrian team have a different definition of horsepower.
Their version has rocketed them to a fourth place standing out of 14 teams and the season is not yet complete.
Seven active riders compete in different divisions based first on their level of experience and secondly on how they fare in competition.
Those who earn enough points in their current division �point out� of that division and into the next highest one.
Points are awarded by winning ribbons. Higher ribbons earn more points. At the end of the season, the riders with the most points go to bigger shows to compete against other top riders in their respective divisions.
The points earned through ribbon-winnings do not just benefit the individual rider, however. The points are added into a team score as well.
At the recent competition at Westminster College, the SHU equestrian team had the most points at the end of the day.
�That was a really big deal,� said Mary Clark, a sophomore.
The Westminster victory is the first time the SHU has ever taken top honors. They are currently only a few points out of third place as a team.
This is especially impressive considering that they missed the first show of the season and that the other teams make challenging competitors.
�[West Virginia University] is competitive; they seem to be the most threatening because their team is so much bigger,� said a freshman Erin Albert.
Equestrian differs from other sports in that it has not historically been a recruited sport.
�It is offered as a sport and people who wish to ride for the school must ride for the coach to see if they are able to ride for the team,� said sophomore Julie Cyr.
That is beginning to change, however.
�We�re getting a lot more high-profile riders,� added Clark, �ones that have a lot more experience.�
Albert is an example of this increased experience. A rider for 14 years, she shows her own horse outside of the collegiate show circuit.
With the SHU team, she competes in the open division, which is the most advanced collegiate division, and has been collecting ribbons this season.
She was the high point rider at the University of Pittsburgh show on October 15.
�I would really like to go to regionals and then to zones,� said Albert, naming the end-of-year shows for riders with the high points.
�I want to get to the highest part I can,� Albert said.
Team goals do not factor into equestrian as much as they do in other sports, largely because it is an individual effort, although the team is certainly hoping to increase its standing throughout the rest of the season.
Cyr said that each rider must �ride the best they can at each show.�
The team’s many accomplishments so far this season have not been lost on Clark, who acknowledges how much the team has improved since last year.
�I�m so proud of all our teammates,� she said.
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