Equestrian facility expansion opens doors for riders to roam
September 16, 2016 | Lynchburg, Va.
The past year's expansion of the Liberty University Equestrian Center — from one 150- by 160-foot outdoor ring to two 300- by 120-foot rings (one indoor and one outdoor) — sets the stage for similar growth of the fledgling riding program.
Meanwhile, the Western squad, led by second-year Head Coach Lauren Eagles will visit North Carolina for a two-day show hosted by perennial Region 5 champion St. Andrews University.
"The Tournament of Champions will be our very first horse show on the national level to let our riders see what we're striving for," second-year Head Coach Jim Arrigon said. "We'll be competing against many of the best teams on the East Coast, so we'll be bringing our best rider in each division. We have lots of new people and will show big improvements this year."
|April Simmonds, a freshman from Ontario, could be the Lady Flames' most decorated rider this season.|
One of if not the most gifted rider the Lady Flames have ever had on the roster is freshman April Simmonds from Ontario, Canada, who narrowly missed qualifying to represent her homeland at the Pan America Games during July trials for the Canadian Olympic team, advancing to the final eight out of 100 nominees.
However, her horse crashed and rolled in the final and Simmonds fell off, eliminating her from consideration. The horse, "Preston," was injured in the accident and Simmonds is boarding him at the Equestrian Center this semester as one of several new horses housed in new stalls now open in a second barn located across the indoor riding arena from the existing one.
"He's an Olympic-caliber horse, by far the most advanced horse we've ever had here," Arrigon said.
In Baltimore, Simmonds will ride in the High Medal division and will be joined by freshman teammate Hannah Sensing, also from Ontario, in the Low Medal division; sophomore Anna Davidson in Walk Trot; freshman Bailey Boan in Walk Trot Canter; freshman Amber Gayheart in the Novice Flat and Intermediate Fences divisions; sophomore Kendall Burdette in the Intermediate Flat and Open Fences classes; senior Liz Chenelle in Open Flat; and junior Zoe Leppke in Novice Fences.
For the Hunter Seat regular season, which starts next Saturday at the University of Richmond, Liberty will be competing in a different region this year — Zone 4, Region 4 — against the host Spiders as well as Old Dominion, VCU, Mary Washington, the perennial champion, and others.
"It turned out good for us as we are in an easier region where we should be more competitive," Arrigon said. "I'm not sure if we'll be the champion, but we should finish in the top two or three."
Riders competing in the first regular points Western show of the season hosted by St. Andrews are seniors Kayla Sims and Rebecca Oldham, juniors Avonlea Kisner and Kari Hicks, sophomores Leah Ofalt and Anya Devan, freshmen Maddie Temple, Birana Bass, and Kelsey Castledine. Oldham and Devan rode for the Hunter Seat team last year while Kisner is the top returning Western rider.