Practice makes perfect: Demo, exhibition equestrians work to compete

Dominika Silvestri looks to improve her craft during demo and exhibitions rides in hopes of being ready for the real thing. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Marquis Cooley | Reporter

If you’ve ever been to an equestrian meet and saw a rider compete but realized their point didn’t count toward the team score, what you witnessed was a demo or exhibition rider.

Similar to a member on a practice squad, demo and exhibition riders are members of the equestrian team that train with the team. However, they get to participate in meets as well to help themselves improve in a setting similar to the real thing.

“It’s a great experience to have confidence in the pen and gain experience in a less pressure situation,” junior western rider Ellen Schrotenboer said, “and a good way to prepare more riders to become point riders.”

While both demo and exhibition rides are for training purposes, there is a difference between them. In a demo ride, the rider goes out and performs by themselves and gets evaluated, whereas an exhibition ride is the perfect simulation of a point ride.

“Everything is the same except the point doesn’t count towards the overall team score,” Schrotenboer said. “You still get a four minute warm-up, and you practice with the other girls. You’re actually going head to head with someone on the opposite team.”

Schrotenboer said these rides are a great way to see what patterns she does well and what she can improve on, but in some cases, the demo and exhibition riders actually score higher than the point riders.

“It’s a really great feeling to know that the same judge thinks I’m just as great as the countable rides,” sophomore jumping seat rider Dominika Silvestri said. “And it’s definitely a confidence booster going into more meets.”

No matter what happens though, the demo and exhibition riders know that the rest of the team is always there for them wanting them to do their best.

“There’s 64 other girls behind you cheering you along,” Silvestri said. “It’s the best feeling when you walk in there and everyone’s cheering your name, and they’re just as supportive as everyone else in there. They’re ready to cheer you on and help you out when you show up, so it’s really nice.”

While the demo and exhibition riders may be riding in meets for extra practice right now, the experience they’re getting is helping improve their craft. They’ll get the chance to show their skills as the seniors graduate and will be earning points for Baylor in the near future.

“I feel like I’m a bit on the cusp of hopefully being on the roster,” Silvestri said. “But I definitely feel that all of the rides that I’ve had have made me a better rider.”