The 2018 USEA Intercollegiate Championship at Virginia Horse Trials last weekend was the largest in the program’s three-year history, with 18 colleges and universities making up 23 competing teams. The students arrived in droves, traveling from as far as Texas and Florida. They shouted battle cries, decked out in logowear and moved in buzzing packs behind their riders. The Championship creates a lively atmosphere but is undoubtedly an intense competition with small margins of error. Read on to hear what the riders had to say about the experience.
Comments on the Competition
Auburn University, which has placed third the last two years, finally pulled off a victory, with the Auburn Orange team edging out the Clemson University Tigers by less than two points. The Auburn Blue team finished fourth.
“As fun as it can be just to come and be in the top three, winning is a completely surreal feeling because we’ve all worked so hard to get here with our individual horses,” said Auburn student Sallie Johnson.
Clemson, which has earned both Intercollegiate Reserve Champion and Champion titles, fielded three teams. They added another Reserve Champion title to their trophy case as well as a sixth place finish.
“Sarah (Pyne) and I have been on all three teams,” Alex Peterson said. “Last year after winning champion and knowing how that felt and the work it took to get there, we laid down the schedule, we said we need x, y, z and we made it happen. We had fabulous [fundraising combined tests], and we had a lot of team competitions to get each other ready for this.”
Ringing in third place was the small but mighty team from University of Aiken, SC. With a few bobbles on the final day they were unsure if they would hold on to their overnight placing but were overjoyed to discover they had a point-and-a-half to spare.
“I don’t even have words to describe how proud I am. Last year we were 18th,” said USCA team president Brooke Webb. “This is my first year being president, my first year being on the team, and I said we’re going to make an appearance and all I want is for them to know we’re there. We decided to absolutely blow it out of the water this year and I am so proud of everyone who has been here.”
The Spirit Award, sponsored by VHT, is a hard fought competition itself. Students bring an incredible amount of swag, uniforms, tiger onesies, mascots (real ones!) and more shakers than you can, well, shake a stick at. But the Spirit Award is about more than decorating skills. It’s about upholding the spirit of eventing. It’s about supporting, assisting, and celebrating your fellow competitors. The four-person University of Kentucky Wildcats met this criteria and more to earn the Spirit Award (they also finished seventh in the team event!).
“We wanted to show that we’re a team with a lot of spirit and we have a lot of fun and we wanted to bring that here,” Jackie LeMastus said. “Our eventing team at our university has helped make our best friendships. I didn’t know any of these girls before going in. It’s been really cool to get to know everybody. We just have a lot of fun.”
Comments On the Intercollegiate Championship
Auburn student Meredith Kramer, a rising senior and double major in agricultural communication and horticulture: “To do something so fun with such a good atmosphere instead of going to a show on your own is exciting. It makes it much more fun.”
Auburn student Aubrey Wagner and Championship first-timer: “I knew it was a big deal but I didn’t realize how big a deal it actually was. All the teams showing their school spirit and the camaraderie that we all had was a really special feeling.”
Clemson student Sarah Pyne: “I am so excited to see what it looks like in ten years. Each year it gets crazier and wilder. It’s really cool to watch not only how it’s progressed but the USEA has embraced it and that’s amazing. A lot of us don’t have the opportunity to go to Young Riders and I’ll never make it on the U.S. team. We’re not doing crazy upper level stuff. We’re not used to being people that make it on the USEA (web)page.”
University of Florida third year animal science major, Kelly Clark: “It’s scary!”
Coach Ashley Johnson: “We didn’t bring balloons.”
Jessica Wymbs, an English equestrian and equine management major at University of Findlay: “It’s a big environment but it’s awesome to see eventing be more collegiate. Typically we’re out competing against other people but it’s so nice to be here and compete against other schools and individually. It’s something really unique.”
Veronica Escude for Findlay: “We’re making friends. It’s college kids that love to event.”
Findlay Coach Sue King: “This really convinces the kids that it’s out there. It’s not just us. It’s a national movement.”
Comments on Eventing Teams and Riding During College
Sarah Pyne just graduated from Clemson University with a degree in architecture. She brought three horses to the Championship – one for each Clemson team – and has been actively competing throughout college besides the one semester she studied abroad in Barcelona. How does she manage to do it all?
“I believe you can make anything happen if you set you’re priorities. It was academics and then (the horses),” Sarah said. “I didn’t have quite the social life that a lot of people go through college having. For me I think (the horses) made me do better in school. I couldn’t lounge around on the couch (after class).”
Elizabeth Silva-Chandley rides for University of Kentucky: “The University of Kentucky Dressage and Eventing Team is the reason that most of us chose UK so we’re here to show that UK is where it’s at and that’s where you want to ride and represent.”
Edward Britten-Kelly is team captain of the new-ish University of Florida team that made its Championship debut this year. He transferred to the eventing team from the hunt seat team and is learning the ropes of the sport from Coach Ashley Johnson’s seasoned two-star horse Monte Carlo. Edward just graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and said riding on the team really added to his college experience.
“The eventing team gets people from other teams because they enjoy it better and feel like they can get more out of it [compared to larger hunt seat team],” Edward said.
The University of Findlay also made its Championship debut this year. At their facility in Ohio, the equestrian program is actually part of the curriculum and the students get credit for riding. And the program is thriving. They have 15 event horses and Coach Sue King is always accepting donations. Veronica Escude, and english equestrian and equine management major, competed at Championship on a horse donated by Phillip Dutton.
“Our program has grown so much I need more horses. I have more students than horses!” Sue said.
Findlay brought along Colton Cook, who rides for the hunter/jumper team at Findlay, as a groom and cheerleader. His only visit to an event had been the Kentucky Three-Day. We asked if he was ready to come over to the dark side. “Cross country is pretty wild,” he said.
Brooke Webb, a rising senior studying business at University of South Carolina, Aiken: “We don’t have a centralized barn or very many roles. We have a very tight knit group of girls that go everywhere together and hang out a lot.”
Clemson’s Sarah Pyne managed to sum up the feeling of the intercollegiate program in just a few words: “I love my team. They made college perfect.”
Teams received ribbons through sixth and prizes from sponsors USEA, USEF and World Equestrian Brands through fourth. Congratulations to the top six and to all competitors! Click here for full team results.