April 16, 2018
By Brad Muller | More Features
South Carolina equestrian is gearing up for the 2018 NCEA National Championships which will be held April 18-21 in Waco, Texas. The Gamecocks hope to bring home some more hardware after winning the overall championship in 2005, 2007, and 2015, in addition to three consecutive NCEA Hunt Seat National Championships from 2005 through 2007. Head coach Boo Major said her team is not taking a conservative approach to the competition, which will also have an expanded format.
“The attitude of our kids has been amazing,” Major said. “We’re trying to ride more consistently and be more aggressive.”
“In practice, we’ve been working on just going for it without hesitation,” said senior co-captain Chloe Schmidt. “That’s an attitude you want all year, but with riding a horse there is a lot of unpredictability. At this point, we have nothing to lose. There’s no reason to hold back. If you lose, it’s better that you make a mistake from going too hard rather than holding back.”
South Carolina is the No. 8 seed and will square off against top-ranked Georgia to open the competition.
“Georgia won’t be conservative, so we can’t go in there worried about making mistakes,” Major said. “We’re going to go in there and ride to win. Our kids have the mindset that they’re not going to lose, and I love it. This team has been a special group. Whenever they’ve lost, they’ve always come back for the next one with the attitude of ‘we’ve got this.’”
There is no quit in them, which I Iove.
Major praised the leadership of co-captains Schmidt and Aurie Engel Schmieding.
“This team was kind of all over the place at the beginning of the year, and I think they have all learned how to work together,” Major said. “They’re neat group to work with. There is no quit in them, which I Iove.”
“We’ve been close so many times,” Schmidt said. “I think we’ve been building a lot this semester. Everybody is in a really good mindset going into the championships.”
The 2018 championships will have a slightly different structure, which will not only allow teams to win the overall team title, but also individual national championships for each event.
“We’re trying to encourage more schools to join,” Major said. “So, we’re having some additional schools that are coming this year. Instead of just offering a team competition, we’re also offering event competition. Every school that is coming has the opportunity to compete in each of the events – equitation on the flat, equitation over fences, horsemanship and reining.
“It’s kind of a new twist. The team championship has been brought down a little bit from 12 teams competing to only eight teams.”
In regular season matches, the visiting teams don’t bring their own horses and student-athletes compete on the home team’s horses. The national championship is like the conference championships in that each team will bring its own horses to be placed into a collective pool to be used by all of the teams.
“They need more horses because of adding more teams, but we will never ride our horses,” Major said. “It’s more the luck of the draw. They try extremely hard to make it so you’re not riding your horses.”
Major added that the new format will create more excitement for teams and fans.
“It will be more exciting because there will be an overall champion; the team champion,” Major said. “I guess you could call that the grand champion. I look at it like track and field. You can have a champion in the relay with the four people that win the event, and then you have an entire team championship. The overall team championship is separate from the event championships. You could come home with as many as six titles.”
“The new format allows us more time in the ring, and if we make a mistake in an earlier round, we can build off it and get better as we go,” Schmidt said. “The first time you step in the arena at nationals can be a little scary. After that first time, everyone will be so much more confident. I’m excited because we can focus on our little units and as a whole team. We’re excited about it because it gives each squad multiple chances.
“As a whole, with the new format, more schools are coming, and it gives some of those lower level schools an opportunity to compete, and I think that will make more schools interested.”
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