Sweet Briar College rode to a third-place finish in the American National Riding Commission national championship, held Friday through Sunday, April 17-19, at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in North Carolina.
The 2008 defending champion Savannah College of Art and Design took first place, finishing 10 points ahead of Sweet Briar with an overall score of 182. Centenary College was second with 176. Ten college teams competed for the national title.
Kelly MacDonald ’10, Alison Sims ’09 and Meredith Newman ’09 rode for Sweet Briar’s team. Rachel Field ’10 and Sarah Fishback ’10 competed as individuals. Sims and MacDonald both had outstanding outings, scoring sixth and seventh in individual standings, while Fishback was ninth overall. All of the Vixens finished in the top half of the field.
The ANRC championship includes three riding phases judged on equitation and a written phase on riding theory and stable management. Sweet Briar got a boost in this phase from Fishback, Sims and Field, who all placed. They finished second as a team.
The equitation phases began Saturday with flat work in the ring. This dressage sportif competition is a memorized program using U.S. Equestrian Federation hunter seat tests. Fishback was Sweet Briar’s top scorer and the third-place finisher overall in the phase.
To prepare for the finals, Fishback said she focused on her flat work with head coach Shelby French, whom she credits for making sure she and her horse, Almond, were “both on our A game.” Part of that equation is keeping it fun for Almond and not overworking particular elements, she said.
The jumping phases were held Sunday, beginning with an outdoor hunter trials course over 3-foot fences. The final equitation phase is a 3-foot hunter seat equitation medal course in the ring, where MacDonald earned a third-place ribbon and Sims, riding Chinook, tied for sixth.
As the show progressed, Sims said she knew the team’s chances for a ribbon were good. “Chinook and I were really strong in the field, and Kelly MacDonald had a stellar stadium round, both of which were followed up by really strong team performances,” she said. “So I didn’t have a hard time believing we’d end up finishing strong.
In ANRC competition, judges are scoring both horse and rider as a pair. They look for the level of communication and cooperation between the two. Competitors, who must ride at least at an intermediate level, are allowed to school their horses on the courses in the two days leading up to the riding phases.
As a graduating senior, Sims was riding in the ANRC championship for the last time and confessed to being ecstatic to round out her career by placing in the top six. The show was made all the better by the company, she said.
“This was a very fun-loving group of riders this year, which made nationals a very comical and enjoyable experience,” she said in an e-mail. “It was a good way to end a four-year chapter and I’m glad I got to do it with such an amazing group of horses and riders!”