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The Westminster Bi-Line

Talented equestrian team aims for national competition

The Westminster equestrian team’s hard work and preparation has already paid off with early season success.

“We have a lot of good riders on the team this season,” said sophomore rider Amanda Schaefer. “At our first show, the high school and junior high teams were both champions, and I think we are off to a really good start.”

Although the equestrian team may not gain as much public attention as other Westminster sports, the riders deserve much respect for the amount of time and attention they devote to training for each show.

“Some shows we will show up and our horses will already be assigned to us,”said junior rider Brittany Davis. “We only have two warm-up jumps before going into the ring. Some days I will not have seen my horse until I get on it.”

Being a horseback rider is not an easy affair, and the riders on the equestrian team could not do it without the support at their many shows throughout the season.

“We team-train out of the Atlanta Hunt Club in Smyrna, under the supervision of our coach, Betsy Aliffi,” said senior Mollie Cahillane. “Aliffi is not affiliated with the Westminster Schools, but we couldn’t do this without her.”

Like many other athletes, the riders have to practice their skills constantly in order to continually perform well in the ring.

“You have to care for [the horses] every single day and you cannot neglect them,” said sophomore Caroline Harris. “You’re also riding horses you don’t know.”

This year’s team is full of talent under the leadership of the four senior captains, Mollie Cahillane, Janie French, Sarah Mosso, and McClain Newton.

“There are both team and individual aspects to the sport,” said Davis.

Many of the riders practice outside of the school’s equestrian program and participate in competitions and horse shows on their own. Some of the riders also own their own horses. To those unaccustomed to the equestrian world, feeding and maintaining a horse is not an easy task. However, the experience gained in learning to care for and train their mounts is among the many skills they bring to the school team.

The team has lessons in groups of four or five once every two weeks. Riders must compete in three shows a year, with a maximum of five, excluding regionals, zones, and nationals.

Only two shows have been held so far, but many more events and tournaments are scheduled. The next competition for the team is going to be hosted in Conyers on October 27 and 28 by Westminster and Lovett, the third annual Jungle Cat Jam.

The riders aim to become the best riders they can be this season. The team is a great way for all of Westminster’s talented equestrians to do exactly that, and participate in an activity for which they have a passion with other students who feel the same way. Working and training together allows the riders to build a feeling of mutual trust and cooperation, and enables them to share their knowledge and experience with each other. Each show creates a valuable opportunity for the riders to bond and compete against other skilled riders throughout the city and the state.

While the riders have many individual goals, the team has one overriding objective.

“The goal is to get to nationals, which is in April,” said Davis. “Nationals are held in Syracuse, New York, this year.”

For Westminster’s equestrians, the goal indeed is to qualify for and compete in the prestigious annual national competition. Qualifying for nationals is a daunting task. The riders must continue to perform well enough in local competitions to qualify for regionals. There, the team must place in the top two teams to then qualify for zones, in which six states compete. The riders must again perform well at zones before qualifying for nationals. The riders have accepted the challenge and continue to train for success. The regular season has only just begun, and the team can certainly be proud of their performance in their first two shows.

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