Western Equestrian — A crowning achievement

In the third doubleheader meet on Nov. 14 at Western Michigan University, the Albion College western equestrian team took home its first championship of the season. But the team had another success — four riders had now qualified for regionals.

“Doing well without our coach (at the Nov. 14 meet) showed great teamwork to earn a victory,” said Sarah Spencer, Jonesville junior.

As the season progressed, the team continued to qualify more riders for regionals, totaling 12 out of 13 riders this year. Six qualified in the 2009 season. If riders place in the top two in their division, they will progress on to semifinals at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, N.C. on March 27-28, the final step before the national championship in Lexington, Ky. on  May 6-9.

The team competes in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, a national organization for horseback riding competitions on the college level. In each meet, there are six different levels in which riders compete, which range from beginner to reining.

Riders are judged on how well they control the horse and how well they sit and then placed first through sixth; points are awarded based on a rider’s placing. Each team may have points from only one rider in each division count towards their overall total.

Reining is a preassigned pattern that is judged based on speed, precision and finesse.  A rider starts out with a score of 70 points, which are added or subtracted as the reining pattern progresses.

“I think the key to winning a show is choosing the right riders to ride for the team points, when each rider can vary from show to show,” said Kiva Auten, Houghton junior and team captain. “A lot of it depends on strategy and the luck of the draw.”

According to Spencer, the team has not changed any of its training regimen, but each rider does focus on certain skills. 

“We (require) that team members take two lessons per week at an hour each, so we learn how to read and ride the horses,” Spencer said.

Alice Coyne, Cedarville first-year, has enjoyed her first year on the team, but she also realized that it differed from her past riding experiences — namely in that riders ride a horse that they have never ridden before without having any warm-up time prior to each class.

“The process took a little while to get used to, as far as drawing the horse, and learning that more of the riding now depends on horsemanship,” Coyne said.

The team’s next meet will be the regional meet on March 13. The meet, hosted by Western Michigan University, will be held at the Cheff Center in Augusta, Mich.

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