By EMILY ROSSI
The University of Mary Washington riding team has been training harder than ever this year in an attempt to make it even further in Nationals than the team has ever gone before, while also making time for the core University of Mary Washington value of community service. The team has sent at least one rider to Nationals in the past 15 years, and in 2008 the team finished seventh in the nation. Last May, rider Olivia Blake finished seventh in the nation at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association national show. This year, they are working harder to try to come in first place.
The team usually has four practices every week, two on their horses and two in the gym with a trainer. The riders have one group lesson a week, where a smaller group of riders work with their coach. Each practice lasts about an hour but the riders must get there at least half an hour early to get their horses prepared and stay late after practice to untack their horses and wash them off. Not only do the girls practice on the horses, but they have a trainer at the gym who gives them a lifting schedule to help strengthen their muscles. They do many core workouts and leg workouts because they use all of these muscles when riding.
“Riding takes lots of practice and muscle memory so each time we ride we help to improve those skills,” said Isabella Hertzberg.
Every time the riders practice they ride on a different horse as well because in a show they use the other teams horses, so riding different horses each time helps to get used to the feel of a new horse.
Despite their busy academic and training schedules, make it a point of emphasis that they work together to do community service through their love of horses. The riding coach, Kristi Tortline, has put together a program to do therapeutic riding lessons for kids with disabilities.
“It is a great cause because the kids absolutely love it and it really builds their confidence,” said Meg Holland.
The riders who help walk the horse and walk next to the kids to make sure the kids are having fun but because of this program there are now some kids who have gotten to the point where they can ride the horses by themselves.
The team has three more shows in February, one is being hosted at Liberty University on the Feb. 10, and then two home shows on the Feb. 17 and 18 before heading to Regionals on Saturday, Feb. 24. The riding team will also compete in the championships on April 7 and will conclude the season at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Show on May 3.