Equestrian Hunt Seat, Western teams gear up for first shows
September 21, 2019 | Newport News, Va.
Liberty University's Hunt Seat equestrian team will make its IHSA Region 4 season debut Sunday at Christopher Newport University before its Western team travels to St. Andrews for back-to-back shows next Saturday and Sunday in Laurinburg, N.C.
"We have some really good upperclass leadership, including senior Amber Gayheart who is returning in the open division," Liberty Hunt Seat Head Coach Suzanne Flaig said. "This will be her first opportunity to earn points toward her goal of qualifying for the Cacchione Cup. As a team, we would like to start out with a strong showing that puts us in contention for a regional championship."
Junior captain Brook Boan, the younger sister of former Lady Flames rider Bailey and older sister of current freshman Briley, is one of the most promising riders competing in the Limit Division.
"The Boans definitely have a talented riding family," Flaig said.
Liberty had a strong showing at tryouts and kept 21 riders on the Hunt Seat team with another 10 on the Western squad.
"I've been impressed with a lot of riders and we have a pretty good distribution between all of the classes, which is exciting for this season and also on down the road," Flaig said, noting the Hunt Seat team will be back in action next Saturday at a show hosted by the College of William & Mary.
Second-year Western Assistant Coach Madeline Shrode expects her riders to represent the program well next weekend at St. Andrew's, the perennial regional favorite.
"We finished fourth in the region last year so we would love to beat them, and the girls are showing that we are capable," she said, noting that North Carolina was second and Virginia Tech third in the region last year. "St. Andrew's is definitely the top dog in our region, and one of the best in the nation, so if we can compete with and go toe-to-toe with them, we'll be in good shape."
The top two teams out of the six in the region advance to the National Semi-Finals. Last season, Liberty sent four riders as individuals — seniors Amber Dixon and Erin Mays and then-juniors Brianna Bass and Megan Brandt — with top-four showings in their respective classes.
Shrode will lean on Brandt in Open Horsemanship, and senior captains Bass (Level 2) and Madeleine Temple (Level 1) this season, complemented by junior walk-trot rider Kennedy Brouwer and freshman Level One rider Vivian Renfroe.
"We only have 10 riders this year, but they're probably the best quality that I've seen as we focused on being selective on the riders we kept and have upped that level of competitive rider," Shrode said.
Of the seven shows in the Western season, Liberty will host two, back-to-back on Nov. 16-17, the first Western shows held at the Liberty Equestrian Center, which will also host a Hunt Seat show in February.