Riding team hits its stride early

Riding team looks to keep things consistent after a strong start in season shows in the hopes of reaching ODAC championship

Laura Lemon, 16, placed third on the open equestrian flat event. Photo courtesy of W&L Sports Info.

Laura Lemon, ’16, placed third on the open equestrian flat event. Photo courtesy of W&L Sports Info.

Caroline Blackmon

With two first place finishes in early season events so far, Washington and Lee’s equestrian team is third in the region, behind Bridgewater College and Randoph College.

The team attributes its successful start to one word: consistency.

Consistency is a very important according to Captain Caleigh Wells,  ‘17, because it is what wins shows.

“Our coaches are all about consistency,” Wells said, “The fact that we’ve gotten the same number of points and won third each time shows that being consistent in practice leads to us being consistent in shows.”

Captain Laura Lemon, ’16, said she heeds Head Coach Gordon Reistrup’s advice and takes advantage of the strengths and weaknesses of every horse she’s given. According to Reistrup, every horse is different, but each is capable of doing the job.

“Being consistent and riding the best out of every horse that you’re given is the most important thing to remember,” Lemon said. “You work hard to make it look like what you’re doing is really easy.”

Reistrup said he thinks the leadership on the team this year also gives a leg up in the competition.

“The captains are very easy going and very accessible to the rest of the athletes,” Reistrup said. “Both have been successful in the ring, so their teammates look up to them. They have a lot of fun with it and that enthusiasm brings a different level of intensity that is infectious.”

Jane Chiavelli, ’18, said the team relies on the strength from the captains, especially in the winter months when they’re outside all the time and aren’t competing in as many shows.

“The captains continue to boost the morale of the team,” Chiavelli said. “The captains remind us that it’s not just about the riding aspect; all the girls on the team are different and we all get along really well.”

Though being third in the region this early is a strong start, the equestrian team competes through April. That means, Wells said, keeping momentum up for the next six months is the most important goal.

“We’re doing so much better this year because we have a team that is so dedicated,” Wells said. “Being able to continue to encourage that dedication and put that energy to work in the right way is what we will be trying to do.”

Lemon said she thinks the reason the team is so strong this year is because of the prowess of the new athletes to the team.

“We don’t have a weak link in any of our levels because we have a lot of very strong newcomers,” Lemon said. “The final team score isn’t based on one person’s performance, so it’s nice to be able to rely on other people.”

The part of riding that some people don’t think of is the closeness of the team. But, Reistrup said he really loves the team aspect of it.

“The student athletes really enjoy it because most equestrian sports are individually based but this one isn’t,” he said. “You compete as an individual but your score goes towards a team total.”

The equestrian team will compete in several horse shows throughout the year, but one of the most important ones was the one on Oct. 31 when Bridgewater was the host, since they are the first in the region. The Generals placed sixth in the show.

“Historically, we’ve done pretty well at Bridgewater. We’ve been Reserve Champion there a number of times,” Reistrup said. “We just need to keep our head in the game, not overthink things.”

The equestrian team heads to Emory and Henry for the IHSA Invitational on Nov. 14.