The URI equestrian team has had an extended string of successes, and the team’s 43 riders hope to add a sixth consecutive regional championship this spring. Even better, they’re aiming for a second national championship appearance, after last year’s seventh-place finish.
“All of our lives we’re taught that horseback riding is an individual sport, but in college, you’re not only riding for yourself— your points count for the team,” said Jen Blazy, a senior pharmacy major and president of the team. “It’s been fun to be a part of a big team that’s like a family to me.”
Intercollegiate horse shows are quite different from the shows most riders participated in when they were growing up. For instance, the team hosting the show provides all of the horses, which are assigned randomly to the riders. So the rider gets little time to become acclimated to the horse.
“All of our lives we’re taught that horseback riding is an individual sport, but in college you’re not only riding for yourself—your points count for the team.” Jen Blazy, team president
“You have no idea what your horse’s personality is going to be like,” said Jackie Romero-Bourassa, a sophomore pharmacy major. “All we get ahead of time is a description of the horse, and based on that, you just get on and go.”
Riders compete in one of eight classes, based on their experience and skill level, including a category for those with less than six months of riding experience. So the team recruits beginning riders during the first week of school each year.
“Your beginning rider is just as important as your best rider. They can each earn us seven points,” said Coach Wendy Brayman. “So we take people who have never ridden before. We need people in every class.”
The team’s top rider, Lauren Henry, placed fourth at nationals last year and earned second place in the Cacchione Cup, which is awarded to the rider who scores the most points in his or her region in the open division, the highest level of competition.
“My personal goal for this year is to qualify for the Cacchione Cup again,” said Lauren, a junior management major. “I’d really like to win my class at nationals, since coming in second last year left me a little hungry for the win. And it would be great if the team could qualify for nationals again, too.”
Not everyone has such high expectations. For many of the riders, being part of the team and encouraging their teammates is as important as winning.
“Last year I was very unsure of myself, so my goal for this year is to make sure all the freshmen are included and to encourage people to care about the team,” said Jessy Peterson, a sophomore psychology major. “For the team, I just want everyone to put their best effort in.”