By Krista Pirtle
It has been less than two weeks and Baylor has reigned in yet another national championship.
The Baylor Equestrian Hunter Seat team defeated Texas A&M to capture the team’s first national title at the National Collegiate Equestrian Association Championship at the Extraco Events Center in Waco.
“I can’t describe this feeling we have right now,” head coach Ellen White said. “All I asked was that we go 3-0, and this team stepped up as a whole and accomplished it. This is a special group of young women that just wanted so badly to be successful that they wouldn’t be denied.”
It was the first time Baylor competed for a national championship in either the Hunter Seat or Western division.
Equestrian teams are split into two squads, Hunter Seat and Western, much like track and field.
Hunter seat is a classic form of English riding and is based on the tradition of fox hunting.
It includes both flat and over fences, which judge the horse’s movement and form, and equitation classes which judge the rider’s ability both on the flat and over fences.
The four-legged Battle of the Brazos was nothing short of exciting, coming down to a win on points after a 4-4 tie.
The Bears battled the Aggies to a 2-2 tie in Flat, as BU scored the first and final points during the discipline. Junior Taylor Brown totaled a 138 and senior Kim Woodsum added a 136 for Baylor.
Texas A&M took a brief 3-2 lead in Fences before Brown evened it up with a high score of 174.
The Aggies took the lead back before freshman Samantha Schaefer took to her horse for the final ride.
After TAMU scored a zero in Flat, Schaefer needed to beat a 165 for the tie and title. The freshman rode beautifully en route to a 173 and a BU national title.
“I am so proud of the team,” Schaefer said. “I knew I had a good score to beat, but I was confident in my ability to do it.”
Schaefer earned Most Valuable Rider over Fences after going 3-0 and averaging the highest score throughout the championship.
In route to the championship, the No. 4 seed Baylor had to defeat the No. 1 seed, defending overall and Hunter Seat champion Auburn, in the semi-final round.
The Bears battled back from a 3-1 to upset the top seed 4-3.
Auburn jumped out to a 3-1 lead in Flat, as Taylor Brown’s 152 ended up being a big point for Baylor.
“What a total team effort that was,” White said. “We took it one ride at a time and chipped away at that lead. I am so happy these girls get to experience what it is like to compete for a championship.”
Sophomore Ashley Ann McGehee led off Fences with a tie to keep the Bears alive at 3-1. From there, Baylor senior Lisa Goldman recorded a 176 to surpass her opponent’s 165 to cut the Auburn lead to one.
Schaefer (178) rode against Aggie senior Maggie McAlary, and put up the highest score of the night to even it at 3-3. As the last rider to go, Brown needed a 142 to tie but overcame it by 22 points to total 164 for the win.
Baylor also competed in the Western division, one that is based on ranching traditions. Judging is focused on horsemanship and reigning.
The Bears failed to advance past the opening round.
The No. 7 seeded Western squad fell to No. 10 TCU 5-3, with the Bears and Horned Frogs opening to a 2-2 tie in Reining. Sophomore Olivia Rogers (136) and junior Ellie Powell (131) picked up the points for BU, heading to Horsemanship.
In Horsemanship, freshman Parris Rice’s 146.5 tied for high score of the day, as she evened the score at 3-3 with her point, but Baylor fell in the next two rides to drop a 5-3 decision. A&M took home the Western and overall National Championships.
Baylor became the first Big 12 squad to bring home the Hunter Seat title in the sport’s 11 year period as the previous 10 have been claimed by members of the Southeastern Conference.