Sweet Briar College's National Collegiate Equestrian Association team traveled to its inaugural NCEA meet Friday, Sept. 15, taking on Delaware State University. Every rider on Sweet Briar's newly chosen team showed in at least one of the two hunt seat events. Coached by Mimi Wroten and Lizzie Fisch, the Vixens were tough against their first Division I opponent. They lost the meet by a point while still claiming the Most Outstanding Player awards in both events.
The day started with the equitation over-fences competition. Ailish Rhoades '20 competed first for Sweet Briar, winning her head-to-head ride against DSU senior Emily Nelson. As an exhibition rider, however, Rhoades' point did not count toward the team total. Next, first-year Lily Peterson won a point with a score of 87 and was named the over-fences Most Outstanding Player for her performance. Aoife Magner '19 went last for Sweet Briar in the first half of the over-fences event. The 5'1" Magner was a dynamo, handling a large horse during her ride.
Senior Courtney Barry's exhibition ride started the second over-fences set with a solid trip. Makayla Benjamin '18 rode a smooth and accurate over-fences course but scored one point below her opponent. Emily Schlosberg '19 scored an 83 in the team's last ride over fences. Hers was the second-highest score of the day and captured Sweet Briar's last over-fences point, resulting in a 2-2 tie between the schools.
The equitation on-the-flat event allows the riders to test their skills by performing a hunter seat equitation test in a standard dressage arena of 20 by 40 meters. The team again competed in two groups. In each group, each team had an exhibition rider whose points didn't count and two official rides for points.
Magner went first as an exhibition rider, followed by first-year Katie Balding. Both did a good job, Wroten said, but were out-ridden by the home-team opponents. Courtney Barry '18 went next in the first set, riding so well that she not only earned a point for her team, the judge named her Most Outstanding Player on the flat. While the second half of equitation on the flat provided lots of reasons to cheer, there were no additional points for the Vixens. Sarah Miller '20, as the second exhibition rider, gave a solid performance. Benjamin was consistent and ended up just shy of earning her point on the flat. Schlosberg was Sweet Briar's final official competitor. She and her DSU opponent tied, so no point was awarded to either team.
Delaware State University ultimately took the "W" with four points over Sweet Briar's three, but the Vixens took home both coveted MOP awards. Wroten and Fisch were thrilled with the team's performance at its first NCEA meet.
"We certainly have areas to work on but we are extremely happy with the rides our team gave today," Wroten said. "The riders were great representatives of the College and Sweet Briar riding. Our program has a tradition of paying attention to details while riding and teaching theory and skills to develop well-rounded horsewomen. The NCEA format is a great test for our top-level students."
"The atmosphere at an NCEA meet is completely different from a traditional horse show," Fisch observed. "The teams cheer each other on vocally during the course and pattern, so there is a lot of encouragement and support from the sidelines."
The Sweet Briar NCEA team's next meet will be against the University of Georgia in February.