By George Schroeder | LTVN Executive Producer
It’s been six years since No. 8 Baylor Equestrian had a winning record on the road, and after two tight losses away from Waco, they are looking to avoid that trend — starting with the defending national champions, Oklahoma State University.
The team had never been to South Carolina or Georgia to compete, and they weren’t easy match-ups. The Bears (0-2) lost 11-8 and 10-8, respectively.
“The unknown” is just the nature of the sport according to head coach Casie Maxwell. When hosting a meet, only a few horses are drawn randomly to be used in the competition, so even at home, riders don’t know exactly what to expect. To Maxwell, the best thing to do is control what they can control.
“The reality is we’re riding a 1,200-to-1,500-pound animal, and if they don’t want to play that day, they don’t want to play that day,” Maxwell said. “Sometimes that’s the hard thing at home. You do have a higher expectation for the horses.”
Horses do not travel with teams. This seems like a no-brainer for why any team would have a difficult time away, but Maxwell said riding in a different saddle isn’t as problematic as it seems.
“There’s some benefit to being on the road that you don’t know the horses as well, and you just have to really be present and ride what’s underneath of you in that moment,” Maxwell said. “You don’t know what those horses are going to throw at you, and so the riders do have to be quick to adapt, quick to adjust for sure.”
Baylor isn’t the only school that has trouble away from home, as the past five years, no team in the Big 12 has had more than one season with an away winning record — except the Cowgirls (0-1). That’s just one of the reasons jumping seat sophomore Annie Vorhies said the team is ready to take them down.
“We always get like really fired up to go against that team,” Vorhies said.
Vorhies was announced as a Big 12 Rider of the Month for September and tied her career best in fences against the Bulldogs on Friday. She said the team has the skills to win in Stillwater, Okla.
“We’re really excited to carry the great things we did against our last scrimmage, our last two meets,” Vorhies said. “We’re just going to work on carrying the confidence that we had in the ring from the last two meets and just keep pushing it even harder for the next one.”
Especially without a home field advantage, the Bears will have to do just that to bring down OSU. Fifth-year senior western rider Madaline Callaway said her team always strives to meet the Cowgirls’ energy.
“Oklahoma State is a super hard team to beat, they just always come out super confident,” Callaway said. “They have that vibe when they get off the bus or they’re in their ring; the girls are there to win. That mentality kind of shines on us too, and makes us want to be like that.”
Callaway was also named Big 12 Rider of the Month for September. The two shared the same honor, just as they echo being “fired up” to compete against OSU. Callaway said she is “100%” locked-in.
Callaway said despite the team’s rough start, the entire group is rallying under the same fire Vorhies and Callaway share.
“It sucked losing and knowing that you’re that close, but I think it gets all the girls fired up just to even try that much harder in the pattern that they’re doing and the job that they have behind the scenes,” Callaway said. “It all just relates together.”
Maxwell said while the team pushes itself to work harder in practice, it won’t change the way they prepare for their competition.
“I want us to prepare the same this week — whether we’re playing Oklahoma State or the easiest opponent in our schedule — it makes no difference to me,” Maxwell said. “I don’t want it to be about who we’re playing and where we’re playing.”
The Bears take on the Cowgirls Saturday at the Pedigo-Hull Equestrian Center before they return for their home opener with TCU on Oct. 21 at the Willis Family Equestrian Center.