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One of the Georgia horses in the warmup before the meet. The University of Georgia equestrian team participated in its first meet of the season against Sweet Briar on Sept. 27, 2019, in Bishop, Georgia beating their opponents by a score of 8-2, completely sweeping the equitation over fences portion of the competition. (Photo/ Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

Before the 2019-20 Georgia equestrian team could wrap up its season with the SEC and NCEA championships, their performances had been little to write home about.

Finishing 6-6 overall with a 1-5 SEC record, the team brought its two-year regular season loss total to 12, one more than the previous four years combined. Yet despite going 4-6 in 2018-19 dual meets, Georgia took runner-up at the NCEA championships. Head coach Meghan Boenig, with six championships since 2002-03 under her belt, hoped to see a similar postseason effort this spring.

The Red and Black’s assistant sports editor Adrian Godoy spoke with Boenig over the phone to discuss the season’s conclusion, training for both her two-legged and four-legged competitors and what the team’s return to campus will look like.

Adrian Godoy: Looking back on the season, how did you feel your chances were heading into the SEC and NCEA championships?

Meghan Boenig: Looking back is always important to put perspective on [the season] and see what we can do to grow and strengthen. I think we did some incredible things within the team with regard to teamwork, building and bonding. Competitively, I think we weren’t as structured as we needed to be sometimes, and we were seeing that as we were finishing the season. We were really excited to show off what we could do and that increased focus in the postseason, so it left this sense of: there is no waiting for this upcoming season. We need to be at that preparation level from day one, so I think we learned a lot through that.

Godoy: What has training looked like over the last few months for your athletes?

Boenig: We’ve been very blessed to have many who have been able to return to training in their hometowns, riding and competing in things. Early in the summer their capabilities for doing anything off-site were very limited, but as summer progressed, in many states they were able to do some competing and get good conditioning. Unfortunately here everything has remained shut down, so we’re looking forward to our first voluntary session of training today.

Godoy: How have the horses been kept in shape during all this time?

Boenig: Unfortunately, not very well. There hasn’t been enough staff to do the voluntary riding that we would normally get for the horses without student-athletes, so most of them have been out in fields and getting very limited strenuous exercise. They do get to walk around, and they use a “free-ciser” that is an exercise circle that helps strengthen and push our horses a little more. They will definitely need a lot more transition time than our two-legged athletes to get back to work.

Godoy: Have there been guidelines released as to the safety protocols that will be put in place to resume the season?

Boenig: We have a lot of safety protocols that are going to be put in place. Equipment-specific stuff for equestrian includes how to sanitize leather and things of that nature, but the protocols overall will look very different in that nearly all contact will be nearly eliminated, there will be increased sanitation, increased distance between individuals when in confined spaces, and a lot more protocols that are going to be in place when we resume.

Godoy: Has the team been proactive in using this extra time to prepare for next season?

Boeing: I think particularly in April and May there was a really good digest of the season. We have really good plans that came together through coaches, staff and everybody involved. Along with that there has been a lot of transition to matters outside of the team, with what’s happening within our society, and really getting to listen and participate with our student-athletes and their initiatives that were wonderful to see. Now we’re in the transition back, putting it all together with the realization that so many things are changing while also remaining patient with everybody as they work through those changes.

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