Haugh ’17 qualifies for IHSA National Championships

by Haley Gordon | 4/6/15 6:01pm

This past Saturday, on a blustery spring morning at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, three riders representing the Big Green equestrian team competed at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Zone 1 Championship. . The trio included Meaghan Haugh ’17, Kate Mahoney ’15 and co-captain Alexa Dixon ’15

While all three had strong showings, only Haugh will move on to the national competition to be held in West Springfield, Massachusetts, at the end of the month.

Mahoney competed in individual open fences and finished in eighth place. Dixon rode in the individual open flat event, and earned the fifth-place spot. The open level is the most advanced level in the equestrian collegiate competitions, with the first level being novice and the next highest being intermediate. After competing in the individual novice fences event, Haugh garnered the reserve champion ribbon — awarded to the second-place finisher in each event — securing her return to the IHSA National Championship competition for the second consecutive year.

“Riding is a little bit subjective,” Haugh said. “Once you get to the Zones level especially, it’s really tight competition. There’s a lot of luck [involved].”

With two minutes of riding and eight fences, Haugh said that the only thing to do is “get it done,” hope the horse cooperates and try anticipating challenges the course might provide.The three women qualified to compete at Zones during the Regional competition on March 28, which the Big Green hosted at Morton Farm in nearby Etna, New Hampshire. Regionals is an individual contest, and riders must accumulate 36 points over the course of their season to qualify to compete in the show, Haugh said.

The top two riders in each event at Regionals move on to the Zone championship. Haugh won the blue ribbon in the novice fences event. Mahoney placed second in open fences, while Dixon took fifth. Dixon would compete again in the open flat event, taking first place and qualifying her to compete at this past weekend’s Zone competition.

Other members of the Big Green at Regionals included Emily Estelle ’15, Marley Marius ’17 and co-captain Emily Tregidgo ’16. Estelle rode in novice fences, securing a third-place finish, and Marius placed fifth in the walk trot canter event. Finally, Tregidgo rode on the flat and over fences, doing well enough to claim fifth-place in the Regional Challenge Cup.

Including Dartmouth, there are 11 teams in the Big Green’s region, including the University of Vermont, the University of New Hampshire, Bowdoin College and Middlebury College. Because the team was hosting potential riders from each school, Mahone said each member of the team had a large involvement in the day, including helping to organize the event and warming up the horses before the competition.

In order to prepare for Zones, the riders had two practices each day in the week leading up to the competition. The riders focused on practicing their specific events, as well as warming up the horses for the competition, Dixon said.

“We were working a lot on strength… strengthening our legs and our core. We do lifts twice a week at [Floren Varsity Gym]” Dixon said. “[Head coach Sally Batton] has been doing this for 25 years at Dartmouth, so she knows what she’s doing.”

In collegiate competition, the riders do not ride horses from their own farm. Rather the riders have horses randomly assigned to them, which Haugh said makes the event more difficult for the riders but ultimately evens the playing field.

“Outside of collegiate riding, if you’re riding your horse and you have a really good horse, then you are going to do well. If your horse isn’t as good, even if you’re a really good rider, you might not do as well.” Haugh said. “In collegiate riding, it’s luck of the draw and you have to be able to deal with anything.”

While Haugh will be the only member of the team to travel for the national competition that takes place April 30 to May 3, the season is not over as the Ivy League Championship will take place in Ringoes, New Jersey on April 18.