Two William Woods University students “brought home the gold” recently from the Saddle Seat Equitation World Cup in Lexington, Ky.
Lauren McMichael, a sophomore from Houston, Texas, and Jessica Savinelli, a senior from Newton, N.H., were on the five-member team representing the United States in the five-gaited competition. They were chosen during trials at WWU last spring.
“It was an unbelievable thrill and honor to ride in the 2004 World Cup competition,” McMichael said. “Being able to compete on an international level has been a dream of mine for a long time, and winning the gold along with my teammates was just icing on the cake.”
She added, “Probably the most surreal moment of the entire experience was when we were presented with our medals on the podium. It was hard not to cry when the national anthem started playing.”
Savinelli commented, “It was an honor for me not only to represent the United States but William Woods as well. The best part of it for me was meeting so many different people from so many different places. . . I have walked away with so many new friends from all over the world. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.”
Saddle seat equitation became a recognized international sport only a few years ago, and this year marked the fifth time a World Cup was held. William Woods University has hosted the trials for the U.S. team each time.
For the World Cup competition, the host country supplies a pool of horses and lots are drawn so that all riders are on unfamiliar, but well schooled, horses. The riders are judged on their performance on the rail, as well as on the execution of individual work-outs.
The World Cup Saddle Seat Championship is an outgrowth of the successful international equitation championships that were held between South African equitation riders and U.S. riders, beginning in the early 1980s.
The first multi-national Saddle Seat World Cup competition was held in Louisville, Ky., in 1996. Gayle Lampe, professor of equestrian science at William Woods, coached the U.S. team, which
won first place. Another competition was staged in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1998. Madison, Wis., was the site for the World Cup in 2000 and Lampe was one of four judges for that one. Robertson, South Africa, was the 2002 site.
This year, the World Cup was held Oct. 6-9 in conjunction with the Kentucky Fall Classic Horse Show at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. In addition to the United States, four nations competed—Canada, Great Britain, Namibia and South Africa.
Lampe was “thrilled” with the performance of her students: “I am so proud of Lauren and Jess. They were a very integral part in their team winning the gold medal. I think their experience of catch riding so many horses here at William Woods is what prepared them so well for that competition.” She explained that “catch riding” is showing a horse that you’ve never ridden before.
In addition to the two competitors from William Woods, 18 WWU equestrian students went to Lexington to assist with the World Cup. The students helped groom and care for more than 50 competition horses. William Woods students also were scribes for the judges during the competition.
Savinelli praised her fellow equestrian students: “The girls that came down to scribe and groom from William Woods did an amazing job and I thank them all for their hard work!”
Lampe said the World Cup was a great experience for all the William Woods students—riders, scribes and grooms—because they developed friendships with people from other countries.
“I’ll bet most college students don’t even know that Namibia is a country, much less where it is. Our students now have e-mail addresses and will keep in touch with people they’ve met for the rest of their lives. What an experience—something you can’t teach on the home turf of the university,” she said.
Laura Ward, chair of the division of equestrian studies at WWU, managed the competition horses and the WWU students. Because the host country is responsible for providing the horses for this event, William Woods University took three horses: Reedann’s Raconteur, Swatch Watch and Mondial.
“It was an honor to have horses from William Woods ridden in the World Cup,” Ward said. “We are fortunate to have horses of the quality needed for this competition.”
Ward added, “William Woods University was proud to be a part of the World Cup, and I am especially pleased with how well our students and horses represented the saddle seat industry in the United States.”