Equestrian team’s season continues to regionals

By Katrina Borofski

Courtesy of Caitlin Tulio
Courtesy of Caitlin Tulio

With recent athletic events taking place at the University of Massachusetts, such as the NCAA basketball tournament, the successes of other sports teams and clubs like the equestrian team have gone unnoticed.

Unbeknownst to many, the UMass equestrian team is a highly competitive club sport at the University. Serving as the longest standing riding team at UMass, members in the past have competed not only locally, but also regionally and even nationally.

This year, seven members of the team qualified for Regionals, which will take place on Saturday, March 29. Caitlin Tulio, Bridgit Douglas, Charlotte Poppe, Jess Munro, Carla Guthrie, Hallie Berson and Alyssa Moore will be representing UMass at Regionals.

Ranked second in their region, the team was invited to attend an event called the Tournament of Champions.

“At the Tournament of Champions, the top riders of each region compete against others in a competition,” Tulio said. “Normally, we wouldn’t compete against those other teams because they’re from other regions, and they’re some of the best in the country.”

Mount Holyoke College, ranked first in the region, also qualified to attend these competitions. According to Tulio, the two teams have had a history of rivalry. However, it has subsided in recent years.

The equestrian team was invited to attend all three Tournament of Champions competitions held this season. Several members brought home blue ribbons, “making (them) some of the best riders in the country,” Tulio explained.

In addition, the team competed at a holiday tournament where they placed fifth out of 26 teams. Over the course of the season, which extends from October to March, the team competed in eight other competitions.

In February, the team also hosted a competition at Hadley Farm, which it won.

“It was the first show for the spring season (February) and we haven’t won our own home show since I’ve been a freshman. It was a big deal; we’re really happy,” Tulio said.

At the collegiate level, equestrian competitions are separated into seven divisions ranging from beginning riders to advanced riders, Tulio explained. Judges score according to these divisions. Each team is awarded a score based on individual scores, which are awarded based on the performance of the “point rider.”

“The coach picks someone from each division to be a point rider. Whatever points they get during the show goes towards the team,” Tulio said. At the end of the competition, all of the points scored by the point riders are tallied to determine the winner.”

To outsiders of the sport, the scoring can seem complicated, but in actuality its purpose is highly beneficial to the fairness of the competition, according to Tulio.

“The teams don’t know who the point rider is, and the other teams don’t know. It makes it fair for other schools, like Williams, who has a small team. It evens out the playing field because it’s still only one person per team per division,” Tulio said.

At each competition, the school hosting the show provides the horses for competitors.

“Essentially, we don’t get any practice time,” Tulio said. “The first time you ride them is in the arena, so they really judge you on what skills you have and what you can make out of what you are given.”

With such a successful season coming to a close, the equestrian team is looking forward to building up the club sport even more in future years. According to Tulio, the team welcomes any and all levels of riders to try out next fall.

Tulio also emphasized the team’s goal of receiving more recognition from the University.

“We want to try to get new members and advertise the tryouts so we can get new members and become the top in our region,” Tulio said. “We want to establish a name for ourselves.”

Katrina Borofski can be reached at [email protected]