Equestrian takes second at Ivy champs

by Haley Gordon | 4/19/15 6:03pm

04.20.2015.sports.Equestrian_courtesy-of-Emily-Estelle
The equestrian team took second at the Ivy League Championships on Saturday, finishing three points behind Cornell University.
Source: Courtesy of Emily Estelle

When the equestrian team met to begin practice for their upcoming Ivy League Championships after their competition at Zones earlier this month, the riders arrived to find that their saddles were without stirrups.

“Normally when you ride a horse you have stirrups to put your feet into on the saddle,” head coach Sally Batton said. “Riding without stirrups is quite athletically difficult. It adds an extra layer to all the things you need to ride well — muscle, muscle memory, balance and all that kind of stuff. So they rode all week with no stirrups.”

The preparation paid off as the team captured second place at the Ivy competition this past Saturday in Ringoes, New Jersey. The team was led by first-year rider Morgan Finegan ’17, who earned the reserve high point rider prize.

Finegan earned the title with impressive finishes in a handful of events, including finishing first in intermediate fences and winning the championship round in the same event. Finegan also left the competition with a second-place finish in intermediate flat and a sixth-place finish in that event’s championship round.

“The biggest stand out performance was Morgan Finegan. She had an amazing day, and she really had some of the best rides that she had all year,” Batton said. “She really nailed everything.”

The Big Green rider, however, did not place in the top riders at the competition purely from luck. In the weeks leading up to the event, Batton said, Finegan was driven to perform well.

“She came up to me and asked, ‘What can I do, extra, to get stronger, I really want to do well,’” Batton said. “It was really amazing that she had that drive and also that it paid off the way it did at the competition.”

Finegan attributed her success to prioritizing riding in the spring term, compared to her busy fall term, and challenging herself in practice.

“I really wanted to do well at Ivies and knew that I’d be coming back a little rusty,” Finegan said. “I think it was kind of an attitude thing… I tried to be more proactive so that when I was riding I could just focus on that and not on other things.”

Finegan’s determination fueled her in practice, but before her events she calmed her nerves and tried to lessen the pressure she put on herself, she said.

Another blue ribbon winner was Sarah Cohen ’18 who placed first in the advanced walk-trot-canter event and fifth in the event’s championship round.

Alexa Dixon ’15 also performed well in her events, getting “outstanding placing,” Batton said. Dixon placed second in the open flat event, second in the championship of that same event and third in the open fences event.

“Out of all the top riders in all of the Ivies, [Dixon] came in second,” Batton said. “That was quite an accomplishment.”

Dixon said that the work the team put in during training paid off in the competition.

“We were all really prepared, and we all did a good job,” Dixon said. “It was a tough competition, but I was really proud with how everybody came through.”

The Ivy championship is a team event, but the team’s ultimate tally comes from the points earned by appointed individual riders.

“At the start of the competition… I have to choose which riders’ points are going to count towards the team total,” Batton said. “So it’s a little bit of luck. For instance, in intermediate… if I would have appointed [Finegan] we would have won the competition.”

Ultimately, the team would earn second place at the Ivy championship out of the seven teams participating, behind only Cornell University, who beat them out by a mere three points in the overall total.

“It was really close up until the end, it really could have gone either way,” Dixon said. “It’s kind of disappointing that it didn’t work out our way, but that’s the nature of a subjective sport.”

The team was well rounded in the competition, with three blue ribbons, nine second-place finishes and five third-place finishes in the various events.

The Ivy Championship marks the last team event of the spring term for the equestrian program. The team will begin practicing together again in the fall term.

“As a season, it was hard, because last year Dartmouth won everything and went to Nationals,” Finegan said. “It was a lot to live up to, and we didn’t necessarily live up to that, but I think that as a team we had really good spirits this year and we really bonded.”

Batton recently started recruiting incoming students to the equestrian team. While Batton does not have admission spots to offer, she does write letters on behalf of prospective students who have potential talents that could benefit the program. Batton spoke of seven incoming riders who will be attending the College next year and plan to compete for the team.

“I’m really excited to see what happens next year, with both my returning team and the riders I’ve recruited.” Batton said.