For some students here at Mary Washington, finding out the school has an equestrian team might come as a surprise. There certainly aren’t rolling pastures or a barn on campus that might hint that the university has such a team. Nevertheless, like the rest of the athletes at our school, members of the equestrian team have to juggle schoolwork between several practices a week and competitions that take up entire weekends.
Junior Captain Haley Cook, who has been riding since she was eight years old and even owned four horses in her lifetime, insists she was like most young athletes.
“I played a bunch of sports when I was little and as I grew up, riding began to take priority over soccer and track” Cook said.
Cook detailed the Mary Washington equestrian team’s travels to Goucher College in Towson, Md. for their second horse show of the yearlong season. The Eagles took fourth place with 33 points, 11 behind the competition’s winner, Goucher. First place finishes for the Eagles came from senior Emilia Sanchez in intermediate on the flat and junior Kathleen Wallace who finished atop of her novice over fences class. Cook explained that the team was supposed to show their horses on both Saturday and Sunday, but inclement weather held them to riding on Sunday only.
Despite showering her teammates with praise, Cook admitted that the first two shows haven’t gone as UMW planned.
“We’ve had a rough first two competitions at Goucher,” Cook said. “We really want to win next weekend in the show at Christopher Newport. We usually place first or second.”
Cook didn’t want to lay blame on the judges for the results, but she admitted that, “It’s tough. Sometimes judges can be inconsistent with scoring.”
While that may be one of the many variables of riding in college, Cook said it’s far from the biggest difference between the high school and collegiate levels. The most difficult thing is adjusting from high school’s approach of the athlete constantly working with one horse that a rider can get adjusted to.
“In college you work with different horses and at competitions you are randomly given a horse from the hosting school,” Cook said. “Competing with horses your familiar with is like the ultimate home team advantage.”
As the season goes on, the team should become more comfortable, which the Eagles hope will translate into more successful shows. Cook is optimistic about the upcoming slate of shows, and has a lofty goals for the team.
“Hopefully, we can make it to Nationals,” Cook said. I think it would be a really good experience for everyone so that’s what we’re focusing on.”
The Eagles’ riding team will next compete this Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Christopher Newport University show.