After an impressive 4-0 start to the season the No. 1 Georgia equestrian team prepares for No. 2 Auburn this Friday in Alabama.
The Bulldogs are coming off a 14-7 win over Oklahoma State on Oct. 16, but haven’t had a competition in almost a month. Despite the long absence, they are unconcerned.
“We don’t want to burn ourselves out at all, and [we want to] let our minds rest a little bit,” said junior Hunt Seat rider Liza Finsness. “Then as it gets closer to the meet [we] get more hyped up.”
On off weeks the team practices three times a week with practices running an hour to an hour and a half. But on competition weeks they practice every day in preparation for their opponent.
For all events (Equitation on the Flat, Equitation Over Fences, Horsemanship, and Reining) there are specific patterns that are unique to each competition.
The riders get their patterns a week in advance and spend the week leading up to the competition perfecting them.
A typical day of practice starts off with leg work. They do several different exercises to strengthen their legs such as riding without stirrups and standing without stirrups (they use only their knees to grip the horse). This way they can keep their backs upright and still throughout the whole run. The rider’s body positioning is one of the biggest factors the judges look for during a run.
The next part of their practices consist of specific training with each rider’s discipline. Each discipline works on specific parts of their respected patterns each day in preparation for the meet.
The Bulldogs are going to Auburn this week and away meets bring about differences for the riders. The arena sizes vary from team to team and the away team does not bring any of their own horses with them to the meet.
Away teams use the home team’s horses. This provides a challenge to the away team as they are unfamiliar with the opposition’s horses. In preparation for this, the Bulldogs try to ride as many different horses as they can during practice.
Bailey Anderson, a sophomore Horsemanship rider, enjoys riding opposing team’s horses at away meets. She feels that when they use their own horses they run the risk of “overthinking the horse” instead of adapting to the natural and unique approach that each horse brings.
The most important factor to the Bulldogs is unity. They strive to create and maintain strong bonds between riders.
“We have a lot of things that we do outside the farm as a team, like team bonding events,” Finsness said. “[We do a lot of] stuff to keep us united a little bit and still hyped up.”