PLANTATION, Fla. – Florida Atlantic University’s Equestrian Team, in its first competition and with a complement of Palm Beaches riders, made a strong showing on Feb. 5 versus the Southeast’s top collegiate programs.
The riding Owls placed in nine classes at the IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Show Association) show hosted by the University of Miami at Plantation Equestrian Center in Broward County.
“The team did awesome for our first show!” said freshman Jordan Carbonneau. “I am so happy everyone had fun and placed in every class. I think we have real potential to be one of the best schools in the future.”
Despite being new to the collegiate equestrian scene, the Owls include many seasoned English equitation and jumper riders with experience in some of the state’s top shows, including the Winter Equestrian Festival.
“I already knew that we had great riders going into this first show,” said team President Laurel Sendach. “I just wanted everyone to have fun and not to worry about winning. I’m extremely happy that everyone did so well. It makes me very optimistic for the next show as well as the years to come, knowing that we have the talent to do it.”
Carbonneau, from Oviedo, led the Owls, winning the Intermediate Over Fences class.
“Of course I wanted to win my first class, but with this being my first college show, I did not expect to win. I figured I would place well after my class though because I felt like I rode well. I was really excited when they called the placings and I ended up with first!” Carbonneau said.
Sophomore Ariel Glazer of Delray Beach, a Wellington High School graduate, was third in Novice Over Fences.
Senior Daphne Markey of Royal Palm Beach pinned fourth in the Open Over Fences class. Catherine Connor, a junior from Homeland, near Wellington, was Reserve.
Markey was Reserve in the Open Flat (Under Saddle) class.
In the Intermediate Flat class, Reserve went to Sendach, a sophomore from Delray Beach.
Glazer was fourth in the Novice Flat.
Rebecca Eigen, a west Boca Raton freshman, was Reserve in Advanced Walk-Trot-Canter.
Freshman Amanda Burke, of the Lake Worth area, was third in Beginner Walk-Trot-Canter.
The IHSA, formed in 1967, has 376 teams and 6,500-plus riders who may compete in hunter seat equitation, Western horsemanship and reining in 45 states and Canada. Seven of the 10 Florida members (FAU, overall team winner Central Florida, Florida International, Florida, Miami, Rollins and South Florida) competed Saturday. Fellow Zone 5-Region 3 members Georgia Southern, the College of Charleston and Savannah College of Art and Design also competed.
It takes a well-rounded rider to excel in IHSA competitions because horses, saddles and other gear are provided at each venue by the host team. Each competitor rides an unknown horse, without warm-up, in each event – testing her/his horsemanship. Competitors are professionally judged only on their skills.
“Riding a horse that I’m unfamiliar with is nerve racking at first because you don’t know what they’re going to be like,” said Connor, a Wellington High School graduate who has ridden for most her life, in the WEF and other top shows. “But once you get going, you just try to ride and you don’t think about it as much. It’s challenging but it reminds you why you like horses in the first place. Because, for the most part, they’re all fun.”
“Showing a horse that I’ve never ridden before was very interesting and not as hard as I thought it would be,” said Carbonneau, an Oviedo High School graduate. “I just had to focus on my position and just go with the horse.”
Amy Foster Hoerner, of How-Lyn Acres near Pompano Beach, coaches the FAU Equestrian Team, which was founded in 2009 by Victoria Von Baillou and organized by Sendach and Katie Baker. Team leaders include Samantha Cossin, vice president; Steph Mayne, secretary; Connor, treasurer; and Eigen, English team captain.
The Owls plan to make the IHSA regionals and nationals, Sendach said, placing FAU – smack in the country’s equestrian hotbed – on the equine map.
FAU is “actively competing in all the IHSA shows this year, rather than just a few,” she said. “We have the talent. We just need the consistency.”
The Owls next compete March 5 at College of Charleston and March 6 at Savannah College of Art and Design.
“Now that we have a show under our belt, I think we will all be less nervous and more prepared. We know what to expect now,” Connor added. “I think that come the 2011-12 show year, we will be a top team in the Southeast region. All of our riders are strong and experienced. Hopefully we will start to draw in more riders based on our good riding team.”
The FAU Equestrian Team is seeking sponsors, donors and fund-raising aid to enable participation in distant and expensive shows, and to establish itself as an accredited sport at the university. For information, or to help, visit: www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=298731315492 , or e-mail Sendach at firstname.lastname@example.org.