Seniors Sarah Hibler, Katie Drake and Olivia Smith finished their riding careers on a high note, each having qualified to compete at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships May 1-3.
All three placed in their competitive classes — and Hibler returned from the Harrisburg, Pa., show as the intermediate equitation over fences reserve champion. Drake was ninth in her novice equitation on the flat class.
Smith competed for the second year for the Cacchione Cup — a special class for the top 36 riders in the open division, who represent each IHSA region in the country. In 16th place after the fences portion of the class, she followed with a fifth-place performance in the flat phase to finish ninth overall.
“This is a very competitive class so being ninth nationally in the Cacchione Cup is a great accomplishment,” said riding program director and coach Mimi Wroten.
Hibler felt good about how she and her classmates rode in the competition. She noted the IHSA finals were held just a week after the College hosted the ANRC championship show.
“We had a couple of days to recover, then we were off to Harrisburg,” Hibler said. “It was very busy and I know we all were tired but we pushed through and had an amazing weekend.
“This was probably one of my favorite shows I’ve competed in while at Sweet Briar. The three of us who competed are all seniors and very close, so it made the trip a lot of fun and I think we kept our coaches Lizzie [Fisch] and Mimi entertained through the week!”
It was bittersweet because it was their last show riding for Sweet Briar, Hibler said.
“It was a great way to wrap up my collegiate riding career and I am so happy to have spent it with everyone involved. I definitely could not have done it without them.”
Drake also feels sadness at closing her riding career, but was more than satisfied with the way it ended — getting to the nationals was a thrill in itself.
“I am not the strongest flat rider, so I was ecstatic to make it to zones, let alone nationals and place,” she said. “I definitely felt as ready as I could be. And I just wanted to thank Mimi and Lizzie for all the work that they have put into preparing us and into the riding program in general.”
Fisch, their IHSA head coach, appreciates what the three women brought to the team.
“I am so proud of all three of these riders,” Fisch said. “They have shown themselves to be great competitors, horsewomen and role models for the team throughout their years at Sweet Briar. I have loved coaching them and wish them every success in their future endeavors.”