Don’t let go of the reins, keep your back straight and you might receive a blue ribbon.
The SUNY New Paltz Equestrian Team is a competitive horse riding club consisting of 20 members that participates in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) and has been around for over 15 years.
President of the SUNY New Paltz Equestrian Team Megan Flaherty, a fourth-year early childhood education major with a concentration in English, has been riding since she was three years old. She decided to keep up with horseback riding when she transferred to New Paltz in 2014 and heard there was a competitive team.
“When I heard that New Paltz had a team, I decided this would be the best place for me,” Flaherty said. “I liked that I could ride and still do other things, like be in a sorority, but I also liked that the team was pretty competitive.”
The team competes in IHSA competition in zone 2 region 3 against West Point, Drew University, Vassar College, Marist College, Stevens Institute of Technology, William Paterson University and Centenary College. However, it does not limit them to compete against other club teams and Divsion I, II and III schools.
In the fall, each college hosts a show at the stable where they ride. SUNY New Paltz utilizes Crosswinds Equestrian Center in LaGrangeville, New York. Each team brings some of their horses that will be given a number as well as the rider. A random audience member will correspond a horse to a rider to give everyone a fair chance.
There are five different divisions based upon level and experience and about three to five team members can ride in each. The coach picks one person in each division to be the “point rider.”
“The ‘point rider’ means that the points they score go towards our team score,” Flaherty said. “Everyone else competes for individual points and if they win a class they can block other teams’ point riders from getting points, which allows us to have a higher place above them. Even though only a few team members’ point value goes toward the team, it is a team effort that everyone is involved in.”
There are numerous events that take place, such as open flat, open fences, advanced walk, trot and canter, beginner walk, trot and canter and walk trot.
Captain of the Equestrian Team Erika D’Antona, a third-year business management major, believes the camaraderie of the team is what makes it special.
“We had a lot of freshmen join the team and we’ve all meshed really well with one another and have gotten really close in the few short months that we’ve spent together,” D’Antona said.
At competitions, they are judged in the Hunter Seat Equitation division, which is based on the ability and the style of the rider, as opposed to judging the ability and looks of the horse, D’Antona explained.
During their weekly meetings, D’Antona will go over how the team did at the last show and discuss improvements the coaches have seen. They also discuss gym hours and lessons that need to be made up, as each team member is required to clock in a certain amount of hours and lessons per week.
They also nominate someone for rider of the week for doing exceptional work at a show or in lessons. After a horse show, the rider of the week is the recipient of the golden horseshoe, which is typically given out to a rider who rode well or pointed out of their division.
D’Antona was the recipient of the golden horseshoe last year for her first place ribbon in the open fences class.
The team has concluded a successful fall semester and will start up again at Crosswinds on Feb. 11.
“Our team is very young but we have been progressing more and more at each competition,” Flaherty said. “Our last one was one of the best of the season.”