In The Ribbons
Spurred by a strong new crop of freshman riders and several accomplished upper- classmen, Washington College’s hunt seat equestrian team is poised this spring to nail its best finish ever in its tightly competitive region. After the College’s Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) competition held on a grey and frigid March Saturday, the team remained in second place heading into the final show of the season. Eight teams competed at Glendale Riding School in Easton, MD, the team’s home training barn. University of Delaware took high point honors for the day, with Temple University in reserve.
“Last year we were second to last,” says team captain Amanda Kloetzli ’14. “This year we’ve really pulled ourselves together.”
Chris Bigelow, who is in her sixth year as coach, says the team has done well before but has never been this consistent. “It’s been an amazing season,” Bigelow says. “We’ve had some strong incoming riders who have filled the gaps and have good skills in the lower levels, as well as riders like Jared [DePermentier ’14] in the upper levels.”
The College’s equestrian team has two parts, with Western riders (fancy dress and reining skills) and English hunt seat (skills over fences and on the flat) competing in different venues. The hunt seat team is the larger—about 30 riders—and more established, and its depth this year has allowed it to excel in all classes, or sections.
“We really do have a good pool of riders in the freshman year who are going to continue this, and I hope to see it grow even more,” says DePermentier, the Equestrian Club’s president, who is in a tight race for high-point rider honors in the region’s open division.
Under the IHSA, students don’t even need a saddle to compete; all they need is desire, time and dedication. Schools who join IHSA provide horses and tack for their students and visiting teams when they sponsor a show. Mounts are “drawn” before the various classes so that no one rider gets any particular advantage; competitors are expected to get the best out of whatever horse they draw. The system levels the playing field and provides a chance for people who don’t have a lot of money to participate in what is a notoriously expensive and elitist sport.
“It’s fair for everyone,” DePermentier says. “Miss Chris does a really good job of putting us on different horses we wouldn’t work well with and really forcing us to give it our best, even when we’re about to hop off and walk away from it all. She just pushes us to work even harder.”
Washington College’s duel with Drexel University, which was leading the region overall, will be determined by the end of March. The winning team will go on to zone competition in spring; the winner there heads to nationals in May.