The Geneseo equestrian team jumped into its first shows of the season on Saturday Oct. 28 and Sunday Oct. 29 at Leg Up Stables. Geneseo competed against a total of 10 teams, taking third place during the first day of competition and sixth place during the second day.
Some of the toughest teams Geneseo faced were Cazenovia College and St. Lawrence University, according to freshman rider Cheyenne Otto. These teams are often national champions and Geneseo appreciates the chance to compete against them.
“They’re both really amazing schools. It’s actually just an amazing opportunity to see their riders perform,” senior rider Samantha Childs said. “It’s a really great learning experience for us to see how their teams operate because they’re some of the best in the country.”
Childs was among some of the riders who placed, earning first in Intermediate Fences on Saturday Oct. 28 and placing first in Intermediate Fences again as well as second in Intermediate Flat the next day.
Additionally, Otto earned first place in Novice Fences on the first day of competition and fourth place in Novice Fences on the second day.
The highest division of the shows is open, Childs explained, while the lowest division is walk trot. In the higher divisions, riders are required to jump, but in the Flat Division, riders walk, trot and canter.
Geneseo’s team consists of many young riders this year; with close to half of the women being new members, according to head coach Kim Sanford. With such a young team, Sanford plans to focus on developing the riders’ skills.
“They have to learn a lot about team behavior and how to support each other,” Sanford said. “I’ve told them that this may be your debut for your first job. You might have to work with people and compromise and support each other. Everyone isn’t going to be best friends, but you still have to be professional so it is good practice for them.”
At practices, the team focuses not only on riding skills, but also communication skills with the horses, according to Sanford. Developing a fast connection between rider and horse is essential as riders draw for horses for the shows at random. The riders are not permitted to warmup with their horses beforehand. Instead, after drawing, the show starts immediately.
“They have to learn to ride technically so that they can technically communicate and they have to understand the physics of riding so they can manipulate an unfamiliar horse,” Sanford said.
Before the riders draw for horses, they walk the course to prepare themselves for the show.
“Walking the course gives you an idea because you’re on foot and you can see exactly where you want to start a turn and where you need to do everything during the ride,” Childs said. “So that helps you visualize it before you’re in there and you’re on your horse.”
Despite the team being so young, Otto believes Geneseo’s team is strong.
“Getting the show together with a young team is hard because we all have to put in a lot of extra effort, but in terms of the whole show as itself we all know what’s going on,” Otto said. “I think there’s a few girls in walk trot who have never shown before. It opens their eyes, but other than that we’re pretty good, we’re pretty solid.”
The team competes in a total of six shows in the fall semester and two in the spring. After the spring semester shows, the team will move into regional competition. If the team reaches nationals, the season could last until May. The women ride year-round in order to maintain and improve their skills.
With the shows this weekend demonstrating the team’s support and awareness for breast cancer, the women have shown their commitment to advocating for an important cause. The Knights will compete at Cazenovia on Nov. 4 and 5 and look to further continue their success at these upcoming shows.u