By Jeffrey Swindoll
The No. 1 Baylor Bears started off the spring equestrian season with a dominant 13-3 win over No. 10 New Mexico State on Thursday at the Willis Family Equestrian Center.
Baylor (9-0, 3-0) swept all four Most Outstanding Player honors. Sophomore Alicia Gasser (equitation on the flat), senior Sam Schaefer (equitation over fences), senior Parris Rice (horsemanship) and sophomore Ginger Chant (reining) were the recipients of the awards.
“The girls rode phenomenally,” head coach Ellen White said. “[New Mexico State] is not a bad team. That is a ranked team and we really rode well. We’re just that good.”
Thursday’s win over NMSU extended the Bears’ winning streak to nine meets. The Bears finished their fall season with a perfect 8-0 overall record, including two massive victories of then-ranked No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Kansas State. Baylor has kept the No. 1 ranking since October.
“We’re so blessed to able to do this anyway, and to be able to have such a successful fall season was huge for our team,” Gasser said. “We’ve always been really united as a team. We come together very well, but to see it all come together and succeed for everyone involved it’s really exciting for us. We really proved that we’re here to win, and to be the very best that we can be.”
Baylor shut out NMSU 5-0 in equitation on the flat and won equitation over fences 4-1. The Bears commanded the hunter seat discipline, nearly claiming all 10 available points. Baylor claimed a 9-1 edge in hunter seat.
Schaefer led the Bears with the highest overall score (92) in equitation over fences. Schaefer also had the highest score (91) in equitation on the flat. Gasser and sophomore Savannah Jenkins followed just one point behind Schaefer, both scoring 90 in equitation on the flat.
“Today I felt great,” Gasser said. “I got two very good draws so I was really excited about that and I felt great all week in practice, so I felt very confident coming into today. I got two very good horses to ride today and it turned pretty well for me.”
Baylor’s excellence with hunter seat gave their Western discipline teammates quite a bit of slack to guarantee the overall points total win.
The Bears won the Western event 4-2. The eight-point deficit from the hunter seat totals paid off for Baylor after the Bears won Western discipline by just a two-point margin.
“We’ve been working on getting that momentum and that fire lit back underneath,” Chant said. “It was exciting to come back and dominate like we did today. It was a good win for us and for us to come back that strong really proved that we deserve to be the number one team in the nation.”
Rice and junior Mary Brown earned the highest scores (73.5) in horsemanship. Reining was the only event the Bears did not win outright. NMSU’s Haley Newkirk and Kimmy Ferrante got the Aggies the 2-1 victory over the Bears.
“This was our first competition to come back and that’s always a little like everyone is just kind of trying to get in the swing of things,” White said. “This was our chance to get back and test the waters and make sure we’re as good as we think we are.”
The Bears have a busy, road-heavy schedule ahead of them. Just one home meet remains during the season until the final three days of the conference championship, which will be hosted in Waco in April.
“It kind of gets the momentum going for the next couple meets coming up,” Gasser said. “We do have a pretty hard schedule for this spring season. I think we’re definitely strong enough as a team. We have the team. We have the coaches. We have everything going for us right now.”
Next up, Baylor meets Texas A&M at 10 a.m. Feb. 7 at Willis Family Equestrian Center. It will be the two teams’ first meeting since Texas A&M’s departure from the Big 12 in 2012.
“I think having the two home meets at the beginning of the season is good for us,” Gasser said. “It gets us going again on our own horses, on our own turf so it’s really helpful. We’ll just take them one at a time, take them as they come and see what happens.”