Riding team shakes off first competition, stays focused on shared team passion

Despite a challenging start at the season’s first invitational, Washington and Lee’s riding team remains determined to improve throughout the season and grow closer as a team

Kathryn Young

The Washington and Lee University women’s riding team opened up its season on Sept. 23, taking eighth place at the Randolph IHSA Invitational. The event was co-hosted by W&L.

The Generals recorded three top-three finishes in the show, including Hannah Witherell, ’20, who claimed second in the walk-trot-canter category. Additionally, Dani Powers, ’20, and Lauren Fredericks, ’20, tied for third in the walk-trot category.

Elise George, ’19, said the team’s mix of riding backgrounds is one of the team’s greatest strengths.

“Our team is very dynamic,” said George, who placed sixth in the “open equitation over fences” event at the Randolph Invitational. “We have a group of people all with different riding backgrounds. Every rider offers something unique to the team with their skills and abilities.”

Witherell agreed, noting everyone is very passionate about the sport.

“We have riders from a vast array of backgrounds,” Witherell said. “While we show in hunt-seat equitation, having riders from different disciplines gives the team a more diverse skill set.”

Additionally, a general love for horses helps keep the team motivated.

“I think our greatest strength is that we all really love horses,” Fredericks said. “You have to love what you do to show up to early morning workouts and muck out stalls and carry water buckets. I think that gives this team a passion that is really special.”

Despite the fact that the team took last place overall, the team is dedicated and determined.

“While last weekend may not have been the start of the season we had hoped for in terms of our placing as a team, the sportsmanship, persistence and problem solving that each and every team member demonstrated was certainly everything I would hope for from the team,” Witherell said.

Although the event was not their best, they are looking forward to the rest of the season, George said.

“Unfortunately, in this sport, luck is a huge component in our competition,” George said. “It was an unusual show for us, but the team’s horsemanship and sportsmanship remained strong. We reassessed what we could do differently and plan on improving our performance.”

The competitive division makes each event very difficult, they said, but the team is confident in their abilities.

“This season we’re focusing on perfecting what we know,” Fredericks said. “No one is really going out and making stupid mistakes; we’re a team of excellent riders. But we also ride in an extremely competitive division, which means we need to make sure that when we enter the ring we are doing a hundred different things right, all while making it look very natural.”

Because each rider has a different background, everyone has a different focus for improvement this season. Despite riders each competing in different events, the team remains close-knit and focused on pushing each other to the best they can be.

“Each and every rider has individual areas of focus in terms of what they are looking to improve on and achieve this season, but as a team, we are focusing on getting stronger and smarter in our riding,” Witherell said.

The team returns to the ring Oct. 14 for the University of Virginia IHSA Invitational.