Big Green riders close out successful season

by Marjorie Thurlow | 11/20/96 6:00am

Despite the wicked Maine weather, the 27 members of the Dartmouth Equestrian team wrapped up their fall season one week ago Saturday with a typically excellent showing at Bates College.

Samantha Caldwell '98 placed first in the intermediate fences class. In the Advanced Walk-Trot-Canter class, Annette Gaynes '99 and Joanna Kidd '99 took first and third respectively.

Key Fields '99 placed third in the Walk-Trot class, and Mitzi Zarfoss '00 wracked up points by placing first in the novice fences class. Caldwell, Cathy Emery '99, and Abbie Roberts '98 have also qualified for regionals at the end of the spring.

According to team co-Captain Christine Sandvik '97, results like this characterize a season that has turned out to be a pleasant surprise. "Last year, the team started out rocky and got better."

But during the '96 fall season, the Dartmouth Equestrian team came within one point of winning its first show. Likewise, had a different point rider been selected in the Bates show, the team would have come in second or third place overall.

Success in intercollegiate equestrian shows depends on a myriad of factors. The weather and how the horse feels that day can make or break a ride.

Judging can be rewarding or very frustrating. Sandvik explained that judges are her pet peeve because they often don't see beyond the horse's performance to appreciate the rider's effort.

"One horse may not go well for three different riders, and the next rider may perform well but isn't picture perfect," she said. "This difference is not taken into account."

The intercollegiate system of arbitrarily assigning horses to riders for a particular show has its ups and downs. Its randomness keeps the rider on his or her toes, but as Sandvik pointed out, the draw can often decide the ride; the shows are very strenuous on the horses because different people are riding them throughout the day.

But Ellis Ford '00 noted optimistically, "actually, it takes some of the pressure off. ...You do the best you can."

In fact, the Dartmouth team has been doing just that. Their consistent performance has a lot to do with hard work as well as luck and judging.

Along with lessons once or twice a week care of Coach Sally Boillotat, the riders take part in nighttime practices that may involve both fences and flatwork.

New Hampshire's wintry weather may curtail actual riding time, but the team works with community members and Morton Farm to get in the saddle as frequently as possible.

But the Dartmouth equestrian team is by no means all work and no horseplay. Sandvik's major goal as co-captain this fall was to keep the competition fun and make sure that the team was prepared but relaxed. After almost going to nationals her freshman year, she has learned to appreciate riding even if judges don't always do so.

Boillotat's attitude and experience also helps to keep the team's mood mellow. While many college teams receive pressure from their coaches, Boillotat's calm demeanor and experience with the intercollegiate system has assured that the team's standings keep rising.

With a lot of up and coming freshmen riders, the Big Green can look forward to a continuation of this trend.

Ford exemplified this kind of young talent that will form the backbone of the team in the years to come. The team has special meaning for her since it "offered me a place to be and an instant group people to be with," she said.

"Coming in without any connections, I really appreciated it. The captains have been really supportive," Ford added. "Every time you walk out of the ring, three people are there to support you."

Ford claims that her best show was her very first. After a good round, she won the class. She modestly said, "it was a flash in the pan freshman thing," but everyone watching the team knows better. The spring season promises to be equally impressive.