By Nathanael Hawthorne
YSU’s equestrian team has consistently been at the top of their region for the last few years and this year is no different, the team is headed to Logan, Utah, to compete in the semifinal competition after coming out victorious at regionals.
Club sports stretch from the Urban Gaming Club to an eSports team. The equestrian team, however, is a little less common than the others. Five years ago, the team started with one member. Now, the team boasts 17 members including a former national championship winner.
In 2017, the team had one member compete in a national competition and equestrian team coach Amy Watkins believes they can make it back. The team is currently number one in their region.
“I feel fairly confident about some of my students getting to go on to compete in the national competition,” Watkins said.
The road to nationals isn’t an easy one. Each rider is in a designated class and from those classes, they qualify for the regional competition.
Once qualified, they compete in the regional competition. From regionals, only two riders are selected from the region to move into the semifinals held in Logan, Utah. From the semifinals, only the top eight riders will move on from there.
The competitions themselves are difficult as well. In the ring, multiple riders are going at once.
“Our practices usually have two to three other riders, so you can get a feeling of what it’s going to be like in the show ring,” Jess Flynn, equestrian team president and senior accounting major said. “There are six to seven other riders in the show ring while you’re going.”
This can lead to problems with the horses. To start, each rider is given a horse to ride, but the catch is that they don’t provide their own horse.
“Just like humans, horses can have bad days,” Morris said. “Also, some horses don’t like other horses or you ride a horse that doesn’t like being crowded.”
The horses are provided by outside sources. It becomes a difficult task to see the tendencies of the horses, but Watkins has been able to pick up on these and pass the knowledge on to the team.
“That’s one of the things I’ve taught the girls. Not just riding [the horses], but being able to watch the horses while the owners or providers are riding them and being able to find out what is going to be difficult,” Watkins said.
This technique has paid off by giving the team a number one ranking in their region. Other teams in the region include second-ranked West Virginia University, Clarion University, Slippery Rock University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania and California University of Pennsylvania among others.
Team members traveling to Utah to participate in the semifinals are: Jess Flynn, Stephanie Dessler, Emily Bevan, Sloan Ferguson, Samantha Morris, Kaleigh Upole, Emile Bevan and Celeste Snyder.