By Allie Layos ’09
“William Woods is a fine institution for this event to be held.” Though said many times in the saddle seat equestrian world, this was reiterated once again quite recently by Ellen Beard, co-chair of the United States Equestrian Federation Saddle Seat Equitation Committee.
She was speaking about the United States Saddle Seat Equitation World Cup Team Selection Trials, which the school once again hosted on Feb. 22-24, to great success.
Every other year the top saddle seat equitation riders in the country converge on the WWU stables to participate in this noteworthy competition. The top five riders in each division (three-gaited and five-gaited), as well as two alternates will represent the United States as part of the World Cup Team.
Next year the team will travel to South Africa to compete against other countries such as Canada, Namibia, South Africa and Great Britain.
Selected for the Five Gaited team were Brittany Baird, Brook Jacobs, Mackenzie Lyttle, Jessica Moctezuma and Cydni Simmons, with Calee Dillon as alternate. Chosen for the Three Gaited team were Emily Abbot, Jacqueline Beck, Brittany McGinnis, Victoria McHenry and Eleanor Watkins, with Angela Darrow as alternate.
The trials were first held at William Woods University in 1996. It was the only place where a fair competition could take place between applicants. It had the space, the students to run the event and, most of all, it had the horses.
Since each applicant rides four horses for the three-gaited competition alone, there had to be dozens available, allowing for back-ups since nothing is ever certain in a barn.
The horses are also unfamiliar to the riders, which is a big requirement to make the competition fair, and the fact that they are school horses (of good quality, but not the finely tuned show horses the riders are used to) makes it even more challenging for the riders, and challenging is exactly what the World Cup committee wanted.
The event began on Friday night with a welcome reception in Aldridge Hall. The riders met their grooms and drew their horses for the next day. The three-gaited competition took place on Saturday. Sunday morning the five-gaited competition took place and the weekend concluded with a luncheon where the team members were announced.
According to Gayle Lampe, professor of equestrian science, the event was a big success.
“I think it went more smoothly this year than ever before,” said Lampe.
“I am very proud of my students and how organized they were. Every year I think about how much time and effort we put into this event and say to myself, ‘I’m never going to do this again!’ Every year I do it again anyway because it really is worth all the extra work. All of the students I’ve asked agree—the good definitely outweighs the work.”
Colleen Werner of Virginvilla, Pa., agrees that all of the students put in a great deal of time preparing for this event.
“We spent countless hours body clipping horses, bleaching the arena walls, scrubbing tail boards and generally making sure the barns were spotless,” said Werner.
Some of the competitors, parents and trainers were familiar with the WWU equestrian program, but many had never seen the campus and barns for themselves. It was an important weekend for first impressions.
“We want to take every opportunity to showcase the wonderful horses and facilities we have here at William Woods,” said Werner.
The students acted as grooms for the riders and scribes for the judges. They held the gates, worked the concession stand and sold event t-shirts, as well as many other jobs behind the scenes. It was hard work, but if you ask Werner or almost any other saddle seat equestrian at WWU, it was all worth it.
“It is so neat to see the top riders from the Saddlebred, Morgan and Arabian worlds all together competing against each other in our arena. You can always learn from watching anyone ride the same horses you do, but the fact that these riders are the best in the country made it even better,” Werner said.
CUTLINE: William Woods University student groom Linsay Bernard of Weare, N.H., helps a World Cup competitor prepare to enter the ring.