The University of Mary Washington riding team kicked off the 2007-2008 season on Saturday, earning a first place ribbon in the Mount St. Mary’s College Show.
The Eagles’ 37 point win ranked them first in the region over rival schools Goucher College, who placed second with 32 points, and George Mason University, who placed third with 31 points.
Seniors Erin Richardson and Claudia Black both had impressive showings. Richardson placed first in open fences and Black placed first in novice flat, earning enough points this show to move up to the intermediate class.
Other top finishers included junior Jessica Van Brocklin, placing first in open flat; freshman Shannon Brown, placing first in advanced walk-trot-canter; freshman Mary Ryan Richardson, placing first in novice fences; sophomore Rebecca L’Heareaux, placing first in intermediate flat; and sophomore John Smith, placing second in beginning walk-trot-canter.
Although the Eagle’s opening show was hosted by Mount St. Mary’s, the show was held at Goucher College. Saturday marks the first time Mary Washington has defeated Goucher on their grounds since 2004.
The Eagles, who are coming off an impressive finish to last year’s season when they sent four riders to Zone Championships and a team to the National Championships, are optimistic about their chances this season.
Brown, who rode for her first team with Mary Washington this show, is hopeful that UMW will place first in the region.
“We work hard in practices,” she said. “Everything we do is geared toward what we might be asked to do in one of our classes, and a lot of times we will have to pretend like we are actually at a show. I know that we had a lot of people try out this year, and they were all good riders, so coming in we had a very strong team.”
Black also agreed that the newcomers will be beneficial.
“One of the things that I think will work out for us this year is that we have a lot of new faces on the team this year,” she said “We have strong riders at every level, so we are maximizing our chances of earning points at shows.”
Van Brocklin, who competed at the Zones Championship Horse Show last year, and was on UMW’s Nationals team, feels that the team’s closeness was a big factor in their win.
“Well I personally love the team factor of it because I have been horse showing individually since I was 4 years old,” she said. “The fact that it’s individual as well as a team is supportive and it changes the sport all together.
“It’s great everyone is there cheering each other on and bonding as a team, not individually competeing against each other.”
Although UMW’s riding season has just begun, junior Tiffany Batterton is already looking ahead to the rest of the year.
“I think this win gave us a great start to the season,” she said. “But we know we can’t win the region based on this one show, so we’re going to keep working hard to step it up since we know the other teams will be doing the same in an attempt to catch us.”
Those teams will have to run fast, as the Eagles already have an upper-hand with coach Beth Boteler on their side.
Van Brocklin is one of Boteler’s biggest fans.
“Beth’s an awesome coach,” Van Brocklin said. “She’s always positive, she doesn’t get down on us and she always tries to help us fix what we messed up or how to improve.”
The Eagles will look for win number two when compete in the Goucher College Horse Show Oct. 27.