Equestrian team competes at zones to complete season, several riders earn individual honors

The Geneseo equestrian team fielded eight riders at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Region Two Championship at Lehman Farms on Saturday April 6. Senior rider Nicole Solazzo qualified for IHSA Zone Finals on Sunday April 7, also at Lehman Farms. 

Ten schools represent the IHSA in Zone Two, Region Two. There are six divisions within a horse show, and Geneseo Equestrian represented riders in five of them.  

Senior rider Alishah Bhimani explained that there are many tough teams in this region, including St. Lawrence University who is in first place and Cazenovia University who is third place, and that just qualifying is a great accomplishment.

The judge ranks riders for their equitation and horsemanship. Senior captain Sydney Hollasch explained that judges vary based on what they are looking for.

“It kind of depends judge to judge. Everybody has their own specific personal taste and style that they’d like, but generally they are looking for someone who is composed,” Hollasch said. “There’s a general standard of equitation that you should be riding to with your shoulders open, your heels down. Some judges like a light seat. Some like a heavy seat. It just depends.”

Bhimani described how horsemanship also depends on the horse, which is chosen at random in all shows.

“Horsemanship is the ability to read your horse and how you respond to it. So, if you have a horse that is slower but if you respond with adding more leg, you need to gauge how much is enough to get what I want but not too much that it pisses them off,” Bhimani said. “Or if you have a fast horse, how much can I steady him before he gets pissed off. It’s like a balance.”

For Zones, the riders had to place in the top two spots of their class that either had a minimum of six riders and a maximum of 15 riders. Many of the eight riders received ribbons.

Head coach Kim Sanford was happy with the team’s performance. 

“I think all the girls rode really well. The problem is that the show is the best of all our region doing the best, the best, the best,” Sanford said. “Sometimes they didn’t walk out with the highest ribbon but from where they started to where they were at the end of the year everyone looked good. They looked great.” 

Solazzo was one of 15 riders in her class, which is an impressive feat, according to Bhimani. 

“We always have at least one person going to Zones from Geneseo and it was really nice that in such a big class [Solazzo] got it,” Bhimani said.

At Zones, Solazzo rode in the Advanced Walk Trot Canter class and placed sixth in the state which is a great accomplishment for her and the team.

Although the season is over, Hollasch is grateful for what she has learned. 

“I think I’m more confident. That is one of the things my coach worked with me a lot when I was a freshman and a sophomore, that is building my confidence. Being captain this year and being junior captain last year helped build me up,” Hollasch said.

The equestrian team had quite a season, with first-year rider Katy Munn receiving seventh place in the region based on points and Solazzo qualifying and placing at Zones. 

Overall, the team also received fourth place in the region for the number of points received during the season.