The Sewanee Equestrian Team has had a great fall season, from early morning trainings, to Saturdays at the barn practicing, to performing in shows. They have had a great season, winning competitions and events. They compete in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, and since becoming a varsity team in 1996, the Sewanee Equestrian Team has won many competitions.
According to the Sewanee Equestrian Team Page, Sewanee has had six top-ten national team finishes and 35 top-ten national individual riders; with one national champion and five national reserve champions.
This year is especially special as the team will now be participating in the National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA). Sewanee will be joining the NCEA as a single discipline Jumping Seat squad. The team has already had a scrimmage with Auburn and is preparing for more events in the spring semester.
“All the girls that went there really enjoyed that experience,” Ellie Johnson (C’24), a member of the IHSA team, said. “It was really good for us to ride against such a competitive team, and watch how it was done from people who had been doing it for so long.”
With their fall season coming to an end, the equestrian team has had a very successful run, attending multiple shows and breaking personal records.
Entering the NCEA is a big deal for the Sewanee Equestrian Team, and even for the girls not on the official team, there are more early morning practices and performances to attend.
“It’s definitely kicked us into gear,” Johnson said. “We’ve been doing a lot more as a team. We’ve been working out three times a week in the morning.”
The Equestrian team has individual groups under the larger umbrella of their entire team, and each group works together and supports each other. There is the IHSA team, the NCEA team, and the United States Eventing Association (USEA) team which each compete in different ways and are judged differently. Both the IHSA and NCEA teams ride an unknown horse for the first time and are judged on their stability, posture, and correctness of their position. NCEA has the riders warm up with their horses for four minutes before performing, while IHSA riders don’t get any time to practice before they ride their horse into the ring. Both the IHSA and the NCEA are scored out of a hundred. However, the NCEA go head to head against another rider who rides the same horse, while the IHSA don’t, so the IHSA are placed 1st through 6th, while whoever gets the highest score out of the hundred between the two riders, gets the point. The USEA riders ride their personal horses and compete over three disciplines: cross country, show jumping, and dressage.
“[My favorite thing is] the team aspect of it,” Johnson said. “Riding is something that can be taken as an individual sport, but we kind of all are a team, and they really are my people, they have my back.”
At the end of October, the Equestrian team traveled to Auburn to have an NCEA scrimmage against their team. The event was a big deal for the Sewanee team, because, according to Gigi Aiken (C’23), a member of the Sewanee NCEA team, “Auburn’s program started the NCEA.” The scrimmage gave the girls a “chance to get comfortable with the format.”
“It was a little nerve-wracking for all of us, going into Auburn,” Aiken said. “But we held our own, and I really think against the Division 3 schools were going to be a threat.”
The Sewanee Equestrian team performs all year, and they’re just getting started. In the spring semester, they will return to Auburn for their first official competition in the NCEA.
“This January we go back to Auburn and will be riding against SUNY New Paltz, Dartmouth, and Auburn,” Aiken said. “Auburn is hosting the three of us, and we will be riding against each school. Depending on our performance, that will get us to our conference championship that will be held at Sweet Briar College, and then on to Nashville.”
The Sewanee team is amped up and ready for the challenges ahead, and their schedule is filled with training to prepare them for the competitions.
“We really have just two days to perform and qualify for conference, so it’s a lot of pressure,” Aiken said. “You definitely feel like you have to step up and ride your best.”