By Anna Windeknecht ’10
The sweet aroma of leather and hay lingers in the aisles of the William Woods University stables, stirring anticipation. As the girths are tightened and the bridles are buckled, riders climb aboard their horses with contented smiles after a successful and competitive fall semester.
Not only was it a successful semester, but it was a safer one, as well, thanks to the new air vests purchased by the equestrian studies division to add neck and body protection for the riders.
WWU hunter/jumper riders had the opportunity to participate in a fox hunt with author Rita Mae Brown and compete at four horse shows during the semester. Several riders attended every show, including competition at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky.; Ridgefield Arena in Wildwood, Mo.; and several home shows.
Riders started the show season at the Ridgefield Charity Horse Show Sept. 25-26. Competition lasted two days in Wildwood, Mo., holding both jumper and hunter classes.
Melissa Smith of Fort Myers, Fla., garnered two first place finishes on Vainqueur in the Level 1 jumper classes. Capital Account, ridden by Katie Chott of Columbia, Mo., was Champion in Adult Limit Hunter and Novice Adult Hunter. Maggie O’Leary of St. Louis, Mo., rode Biciuin to the reserve championship of Low Hunter. Las Vegas native Indrani Sardelli piloted Alligator to a first place finish in Hopeful Jumpers. Finally, Fulton resident and WWU alumna Colleen Harper-Hertzog and Rowanda Irish Mist collected a first place prize in the Child/Adult 3ft class.
The cold chill of Oct. 2 marked the annual Jumper Derby presented by the Hunter/Jumper Show Team. Held on the WWU equestrian cross country field, the derby had 62 competitors, according to Hunter/Jumper Show Team President Melissa Smith.
“[The derby] is a lot different because it’s in the open field,” states Smith. “It’s a good chance to get out of the arena.”
While competing at the derby, students had the opportunity to wear the new air vests, bought by the equestrian studies division. The safety vests attach to the saddle and deploy an air canister when the rider is dislodged. Before the rider comes into contact with the ground, the air canister deploys and the vest becomes a pseudo-airbag.
“The equestrian studies division has been incredibly supportive,” Dr. Linda McClaren, hunter/jumper program director, said. “It’s because of the division that we have the vests we have.”
The vests derived from a new partnership with a distributor called Air-vest.com. The technology, used by police departments and motorcyclists, adds neck and body protection. McClaren is in the process of setting up a research study that provides evidence of their efficacy.
Later in the semester, a group of hunter/jumper riders toured the Virginia countryside on horseback with author Rita Mae Brown Oct. 22-24. Riding borrowed horses, students rode for hours with the Oak Ridge Hunt Club in Afton, Va. Brown, who recently published a book centered at William Woods University, is the Master of Fox Hounds at the club.
Several states and a time change away, riders went to their last show of the semester. The Kentucky Horse Park was inundated with WWU hunt seat riders for the first annual Kentucky Fall Classic Horse Show Nov. 9-14. Seventeen horse and rider pairs competed at the show with several bringing home championships in the last show of the season.
Kelly Henry of Jefferson City, Mo., rode to Reserve Champion in Pre-Intermediate Adult Hunters aboard Timeless. Second place in the Child/Adult Jumper Classic belonged to Sarah Slutz of Middleton, Idaho, mounted on Chin Chin. William Woods riders swept the Low Child Adult division, with Jacque Franco of San Diego, Calif., winning the championship ribbon aboard Vienna, and Kristen Busher of St. Petersburg, Fla., riding Colonia to Reserve Champion.
While at the show, students trail rode through the world-renowned Rolex Cross Country course and met famous horses, including Hall of Fame Cigar and Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide.
Franco, who attended three shows and the fox hunt, recounts the semester with satisfaction. “I got to ride a bunch of different horses and play in jumper land. I had a blast at all the shows and I learned a lot.”
Hunter/Jumper Show Team President rides Vainquere to win the High Jumping Derby at WWU.
Ashley Dorian tests WWU’s first air-vest, purchased to add neck and body protection for the hunter/jumper riders.