Story by Quinnen Taylor, Staff writer
As the horses come out of the stall on Feb. 4, the Murray State equestrian team prepares to compete in its first western competition at Tennessee Tech.
Head Coach Sue Robinson said the team standings go by a points system determined by the different events in which the contestants place. She said she’s pleased with the team’s placement.
“We are sitting in second with the western team,” Robinson said. “We’re sitting in fourth with the hunt team, but there’s 10 hunt teams in our region and there’s five western teams in our region. So, the competition is a little different.”
Equestrian is split into three categories of riders: hunt, stock and dressage.
According to the Murray State equestrian team brochure, the hunt team offers opportunity for beginning riders as well as advanced riders. The competitions incorporate flat classes and over fence classes.
The stock team has its similarities to the hunt team. The team welcomes beginning walk and trot riders as well as advanced riders. Competitions include rail work, pattern work and reining.
The dressage team focuses primarily on the beginning rider.
Murray State’s hunt team captains include seniors Willow Kearns and Natalie Himmelberg, while the stock captains include senior Kevyn Ann Cunningham and junior Laura Ganvik.
The season begins in September and the Racers have competed in events off-and-on, Robinson said. Murray State hosted its last western competition in November and the next home meet will be March 4-5, presenting a hunt show.
To Robinson, the Equestrian program is more than just looking for the best of the best. She believes the program suits many students and gives them an opportunity to be a part of the team.
“I like ours better for our major and minor here because we can give more students an opportunity to ride,” Robinson said. “You have a place in there for your beginning riders who do walk trot, they don’t canter. So, they have a level.”
Robinson expanded on her point, saying equestrian doesn’t compare to other traditional American sports.
“Then as they increase in experience, then you have a level for each type of rider all the way up to open. It’s not like basketball and football where just your best players can ride in college,” Robinson said. “There is an NCAA for colleges but Murray State is not in that. In fact, there is not a Kentucky school in the NCAA.”
Murray State will also contend in hunt on Feb. 11 at Middle Tennessee State.
The last regular competition and regional competition for the western team is set to take place on Feb. 18 at MTSU. The regional competition for the hunt team will take place on Mar. 10 at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.
The Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships will be May 4-7 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky.