William Woods University hosted the selection trials for the United States Saddle Seat Equitation World Cup Team March 17-19. One of the riders to make the Five Gaited team was WWU’s own Jamie Bender.
In addition to Bender, the Five Gaited Team members are Ashley Alden, Brooke Jacobs, Ali Judah, Christina Sloan and alternate Rachel North.
The Three Gaited Team consists of Jacqueline Beck, Michelle Krentz, Alexis Scott, Sarah Taylor, Deveau Zubrod and alternate Mandy Martin. Scott plans to enroll at William Woods next fall.
Coaches and managers were also announced. Renee Biggins, a WWU alumna, is the Three Gaited coach, and Chuck Herbert the manager. Lynda Freseth is the Five Gaited coach, and Liz McBride Jones, another William Woods graduate, is the Five Gaited manager.
Bender, a senior from Omaha, Neb., went into the competition with quite a few handicaps. An injured knee which kept her from riding for weeks before the competition, and the fact that she is not taking saddle seat riding this semester, but rather Western, made her victory even more exciting.
“I was worried,” said Bender, “not only because of the pain, but because of not being able to ride this last month. I wasn’t as fine tuned as I thought I needed to be.”
But Bender did, indeed, make the Five Gaited Team, and she accredits this success to her parents, who “always gave her nice horses to show,” and to her time at WWU.
“William Woods had a lot to do with it, just because you get to ride a different horse every day,” said Bender.
Because Bender was trying out for the Five Gaited Team, and had already ridden quite a few of the horses being used in the competition, a video was made with all of the five gaited horses and copies were distributed to the other finalists so that they, too, could learn about each of the horses.
“We would never want anyone to say that WWU is not fair,” said Gayle Lampe, professor of equestrian science and saddle seat instructor.
Being asked to host these tryouts is quite an honor, and WWU has hosted the event ever since formal selections for the US team began in 1996. According to Lampe, William Woods is chosen to host the trials each year because of its ability to provide suitable horses for the event and the international reputation of its equestrian science program.
This year, 26 riders competed for 12 spots, two of which were alternates. Four riders tried out for both teams, making the real count come to thirty tryout positions.
WWU riders helped run the event in various positions, doing everything from grooming and tacking each horse for the tryouts, to running the food stand. Students even scribed for the judges Michael Craghead, Karen Homer-Brown, Patty Kent, Marilyn Macfarlane, Ann Slomkowski and Barbe Smith, keeping score on a piece of paper for them, so that they never had to take their eyes off of the riders.
The weekend long event kicked off on Friday night with a welcome reception in Aldridge Hall. Desserts were served, rules were read, horses drawn, and many riders and grooms met each other for the first time.
On Saturday morning the riders each had an individual interview with chosen professors and staff; as representatives of the United States they need to have good speaking abilities and people skills. The interview accounted for 10 percent of the rider’s score.
Five Gaited interviews took place from 8 a.m. to noon, and Three Gaited interviews took place from 8 to10 a.m. in a separate room.
The riding tryouts began on Saturday afternoon, and the riding score was worth 90 percent of the total score. Riders had previously drawn four horses, two of which were pattern horses and two which were to be used on rail work. Rides alternated between rail work and pattern work, and within the pattern sections patterns alternated between Pattern A and Pattern B.
The Three Gaited rides took from 1 to 6 p.m. and were followed with a formal dinner reception took place in Tucker Dining Hall at 7:30.
Sunday, the Five Gaited trials began right at 8:30 and were to be finished by 11:30. Riders, coaches, grooms, and officials all made their way to Tucker Dining Hall
once again, for a lunch and awards ceremony at 1:30 p.m.
This year the scoring system was changed slightly to make tabulating scores both fairer and more accurate. The judges used a numerical system, and could use any range of scores they wanted. Once all of the judges had seen all of the riders in a particular phase, the scores were translated into an ordinal. In this system, the highest numerical scores translate into the lowest ordinals.