The weekend of February 4 and 5 was a busy one for Emory & Henry’s IHSA equestrian team. With home shows on both Saturday and Sunday, members of the IHSA team had to arrive at the Intermont Equestrian Center in Bristol, Virginia at 6am to prepare for regional competitions against Virginia Tech, High Point, Appalachian State, Averett, Ferrum, Radford, UNC-Ashville, UNC-Greensboro, Wake Forest, Western Carolina and Lenoir Rhyne. The hard work paid off, as the E&H equestrian team took first place overall each day.
Many E&H riders took home individual firsts in their divisions. One of these students was freshman Ashlyn Hawkinson, who earned first place in the division Novice Over Fences on Saturday. This was her premier IHSA show.
In IHSA shows, riders draw at random to see what horse they will ride. Hawkinson drew Annie, which she said made her feel very lucky. Before her rounds, Hawkinson said she tried to quiet her mind, and tried to “not focus on winning, but on being focused and relaxed.”
Hawkinson credits the improvement in her riding to E&H’s equestrian coaches. When speaking of the team itself, she says, “we worked together better as we’ve gotten to know each other” and that “we were supportive of each other whether we won or lost.”
Cassie Oliver, also a freshman, took second in Novice on the Flat on Saturday. Oliver had similar comments about the team’s success. She said that a lot of work was required to run the shows, but that everyone stepped up to the plate. Oliver is looking forward to future competitions and she said the greatest benefit of being on the team is “making friends that I wouldn’t have connected with otherwise.”
Despite the first place wins, the team’s other biggest victory was its success in working together. Everyone was professional and sportsmanlike, and the competitors remained positive despite the long hours.
Team manager, Morgan Sollenberger, says the team is “much more familial than most teams…because despite any controversy, we always try to strive to do what’s best for each other, the horses, the school, or IHSA as a whole.”
Sollenberger says she was “tickled with everyone that showed.” Sollenberger won the Alumni Over Fences division and placed second in Alumni on the Flat, qualifying her for regionals. The full results of each show can be found at gowasps.com. Another double header at Virginia Tech Saturday, February 18 and Sunday, February 19 will mark the end of the IHSA regular season.
– Sydney Cooke