Equestrian leaps over regional rivals, preps for Zones

by Meredith Hartley | 4/5/05 5:00am

Dartmouth equestrian excelled in Regional competition Saturday, as five Big Green riders qualified in their individual classes to compete at Zones on April 9 for a spot at Nationals.

"I was very proud of all our Regional qualifiers," said head coach Sally Batton. "They all represented Dartmouth well and rode hard. For those that made it onto Zones, it will be very exciting to see them in classes with the top riders for all of New England."

Dartmouth riders make up four of the six qualifiers in fences that Region 2 is sending to the Zone 1 competition. Daisy Freund '08 and Tim Malone '07 brought their usual one-two punch by placing first and second, respectively, in open fences, and both qualified for Zones. Abby Donahue '06 and Ashley Hannebrink '07 accomplished the same feat, both qualifying in novice fences.

Malone, who spent the winter riding and competing nationally in Florida, said, "I think this winter helped fine tune my riding, since I was competing against the best horses and riders in the country on a daily basis. I was able to ride several horses a day, which helped to strengthen my leg and helped me adapt to any horse I got on more quickly."

While Dartmouth arrived at Regionals with seven flat competitors, only two placed in the top two of their class, qualifying for Zones competition. Malone placed second for the second time that day in open flat, and Tami Martin '08 placed second in novice flat, both qualifying for Zones. Freund, Donahue and Mitzi Huang '05 placed third in their afternoon flat classes, falling just one spot short of qualifying.

"My ride on the flat today was everything I could have wanted it to be -- especially because I drew the famous Jersey Bob curly horse, who was a fun horse for competition," Martin said.

In the flat classes, the normal flat work concluded with individual testing by the judge, in which the riders performed a pattern on horseback or answered a question about general horse knowledge. The results of these tests can have a large impact on who qualifies for Zones.

"Most of us did the test differently than the judge had in mind," said Martin, "but he decided not to count it against us. I had just really hoped to qualify for Zones, so I was more than happy with the way things turned out."

Dartmouth's five qualifiers will compete individually at Zones next Saturday for a spot to compete at Nationals. In addition, since Dartmouth won the regular season by accumulating the most points, six other team members will join Malone and Freund to compete as a team for Dartmouth.

To prepare both the individuals and team for competition, Batton said she is "planning on having team practices each day this week and having them ride on their own" and that she is "hoping to be able to prepare them for any tests that may be asked by the judge at the Zone finals."

The riders chosen by Batton to compete for the team represent the team's top competitor in each division, and they include Malone, Freund, B.R. King '08, Elizabeth Bissell '08, Kate Wooler '08, Janelle Moerlein '06, Huang and Shayan Ghosh '07.

"The most important thing now I think is to not rest on our laurels and to recognize that Zone finals are a whole new ballgame," said Freund. "If we go to Nationals, which I'm confident we could do, that would be thrilling."

Zones will be held next Saturday at the Stoneleigh-Burnham school in Greenfield, Mass. Individual riders will need to place in the top two out of eight competitors to advance to Nationals, while the team needs to place in the top two out of four teams to advance.

"I would love to make it to Nationals, both with the team and individually," said Malone. "We'll be up against stiff competition, but if we ride our best, we can compete against any team in the country."

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