Amherst riders gallop to first-place performances at home show

Although only 13 of the 24 team members chose to compete this semester, all Amherst riders were present on Saturday to help run the show. Team members left campus at 5:50 a.m. in order to arrive at the barn with ample time to clean and warm up the horses prior to the start of the competition at 9 a.m.

Although none of the riders were happy about their early rising, all seemed to agree that the show went smoothly. “Saturday was hectic for all of us, particularly those who were holding horses and riding in the show,” said Elizabeth Hines ’08. “Yet in the end the show was a success and all our hard work paid off.” Hines finished sixth in advanced walk-trot canter. Her teammate Laura Taylor ’08 -who finished fourth in novice flat-echoed the sentiment of chaos that came with taking care of a horse in the midst of competition. “I think that one of the challenges to hosting the show was that none of us could really focus on our riding, since we had other things to worry about,” said Taylor.

In intercollegiate horse shows, riders compete on horses provided by the host school. On the day of the show, no rider is allowed to warm up or practice before entering the ring to be judged. Horse assignments are drawn randomly on the morning of the show, therefore, riders from the host school cannot count on competing on a specific horse. However, there is an obvious home-field advantage for riders from the host school who take their lessons on the horses that are used in the show.

Nevertheless, team members had mixed feelings about their individual performance at the show. “I never seem to draw horses that I’ve ridden before,” said Wunderle, who shows in intermediate flat and novice fences. Yet this time around, Wunderle had a “good” draw for her jumping class. She drew Mac, a horse that she had practiced on a few times during lessons.

Wunderle’s past experience with Mac as well as her skill at jumping earned her first place in her novice fences class. The win comes as a relief for Wunderle, who has had a particularly difficult semester after falling off a horse during her fences class at the Williams show three weeks ago. “Winning made me feel a lot better because I haven’t been doing all that well over fences in shows this semester,” she said.

Fazzano and co-captain Amanda Richardson ’06, agreed that the home-field advantage did not seem to make much of a difference. Fazzano found it difficult to focus on her riding in the midst of the hustle and bustle of running a horse show. “It’s funny how when you host a horse show you’re assumed to have the home-field advantage because you’re riding the same horses that you practice on,” she said. “In reality there is so much going on, so many horses to worry about taking care of and logistics to run that you don’t have the time to get mentally prepared to jump.”

Although Fazzano prefers jumping classes to flat classes, she admits that her performance on the flat tends to be more solid than her performance over fences. “The flat class is less complicated for me, and so it went really well. I’m happy with my win,” she said.

Although the show could not have been a success without the help of all the team members, they especially thanked the horses that made the day possible. “The show had roughly 180 competitors, which makes for a lot of work for our horses, four of which we couldn’t use because of injuries related to the damp weather we had mid-semester,” said Fazzano. “The remaining horses in the barn, therefore, had an even heavier workload than usual in terms of how many times they had to be ridden. We’re incredibly lucky that all of the horses pulled through on show day, and I think a lot of that has to do with the excellent care that they are getting from our team’s trainers, John and Beth Manning.”