Equestrians make history

This weekend, the Allegheny Equestrian Team earned their highest place at a horse show in Allegheny history, taking the title of High Point Reserve Champion.  The show, which was hosted by Bethany College at Stone Gate Farm in Coolville, Ohio, was attended by 10 Allegheny riders who competed for points.

Meghan Naylor, ‘11, and Shannon Savol, ‘13, placed first in jumping in their respective divisions. Meghan Kelley, ‘12 placed second in jumping and Dorothy Pyradek, ‘11 placed second in flat, in which riders display their skill in basic riding techniques through various gates (walk, trot, canter, etc.).

The performance showcased Allegheny’s strength as a team, but riders also scored points toward their individual totals.  A point total of 35 will send a competitor to the regional competition.  Lauren Mursch, ‘10, has already qualified, but Naylor, Samantha Spiegel, ‘11, Kate Holquist, ‘12, and Christina McCarty, ‘12, are also close to qualifying.

The equestrian team was established in 2001, and since then it has grown in both popularity and skill.  The 2001 team had three members; the present team has 13.  According to Spiegel, the team president, the size of the team has a large effect on the team’s success.

“It’s easier for bigger teams like WVU or Seton Hill, where the equestrian team is considered to be a varsity sport, to have a person in every riding division,”  said Spiegel.  “The fact that we won reserve high point team…is a pretty big accomplishment.”

In competition, part of the success of the team also depends on luck.  Each rider is assigned a random horse at the start of the day, and they are judged on how they ride.

“You can have a really good ride or a really bad draw, and that can completely change how you place,” said Coach Hallie Bidwell.  “We drew good horses, and the girls put a big effort into riding them well.”
Before the day begins, specific riders are chosen as “point” riders; these are the riders whose points will count toward the team score.  If a person places well but is not chosen as a point rider, their points do not count.

“Even though we have multiple riders for each division, we can only pick one rider to be ‘point rider,’” Spiegel said. “We all rode our best, though, so it didn’t matter on Sunday who our point riders were!”

The support and encouragement, as well as the motivation, of the team is also something the coach and riders attribute to the team’s success.  This year, the team held tryouts for the first time to assemble the best possible group of riders.

“The girls are stepping up and wanting to ride more, because they know that’s what’s going to make them better,” Bidwell said.

With two more shows left in the season before the regional competition, the team looks to continue riding and placing well in order to add points towards Regionals, which is scheduled for March 21.