Going into the spring semester, the Fairfield equestrian club team is sitting pretty.

After competitions in the fall, the team is in first place in its New York/Connecticut bracket, titled Zone 2/Region 4. Five riders have already qualified for the Regional Show this March.

This is no small feat, as Region 4 encompasses competitive teams – both Varsity and Club – from 11 schools other than Fairfield.

“We’re all feeling great about this upcoming season,” said Monica Cluff ’07, who, along with Sabrina Trager `07, is one of two senior captains.

Since the team was founded in 1992, Fairfield equestrian has made quite a name for itself.

“We are currently and have traditionally since our inception [been] one of the strongest programs in our [region],” said Fairfield alumni and current assistant coach Catherine Larocque.

In fact, over the last decade, Fairfield has been the Region 4 team champion an amazing six times. The last championship came in 2003.

During the last weekend in January, seven Fairfield riders – one representing each of seven different skill levels – got invited to the elite Tournament of Champions, a horse show for the nation’s top teams.

The Tournament took place in Athens, Ga. Fairfield’s riders competed against riders from 26 other schools, located in places as far-flung as Ohio, California and Virginia.

According to Cluff, this is not the first time that Fairfield has attained such an honor.

“We’ve always been invited to the Tournament of Champions because we’ve always been a recognized team in the Northeast,” said Cluff.

So far for the 2006-2007 season, the team is ahead in the standings by almost 20 points. Its toughest competitors, Columbia, N.Y.U. and Yale, are all vying for the second place slot.

This year, Fairfield is under the direction of new Head Coach Kelly Anne Taylor, a professional instructor who won numerous accolades in her days as an intercollegiate rider. She took over for long-time Head Coach Lisa Bailey, who started the program in 1992 and retired last year.

Like all college equestrian teams, Fairfield is a member of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. Throughout the year Fairfield competes against other schools in the surrounding region.

The competitions involve a style of riding known as “hunt seat equitation,” which is based on a rider’s position.

Each competition has two parts: a “flat” class and a “fences” class.

Points are awarded to each rider based on his or her performance in these two groupings. The points are also registered with the rider’s team.

At the end of the year the team with the highest point total, as well as individuals with a certain amount of points, go on to the Regional Show. The best of the best at regionals advance to the Zone Show and from there, to the National Show.

With approximately one-third of the season left to go, Trager has an extremely optimistic outlook.

“We’re extremely determined this year and we’re extremely hardworking,” she said.

Fairfield’s success has a lot to do with its ability to attract experienced riders who already have a solid work ethic and a strong passion for horse riding.

“We all have different backgrounds, but most people do ride at home,” said Elysse Ruschmeyer, a freshman rider who has competed in all but one of the competitions this year.

To register, Fairfield students must go through a lengthy registering and screening process.

“You have to fill out a comprehensive form about your previous show experience and that determines what level you are in in terms of showing,” said Alison Irving, a freshman horse rider who signed on with the squad last semester just to attend riding lessons.

In addition, Irving said there is also a rider evaluation that incorporates both phases of a typical horse show.

Once members of the club team, riders train at nearby New Canaan Mounted Troop and Fox Ridge Farm, both located within a half hour of campus.

All riders are required to perform at shows and attend two lessons per week.

For Cluff, the program’s future is very bright.

“I feel wonderful about the future years ahead,” she said. “We have strong, dedicated freshmen who have lots of talent. We have great sophomores and juniors and there’s going to be great juniors leading the way next year.”

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.