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    August 19, 2021 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    Former Middle Tennessee State University rider and coach Emily Cavender was named Liberty University equestrian’s new assistant director of programming and assistant coach of the Western team in June and she officially started in that role out of the Liberty Mountain Equestrian Center on July 1.

    With 15 years of experience as a riding instructor and a master’s degree in equine education from MTSU, Cavender, 35, will also be assisting in leading trail rides and teaching both recreational lessons and elective physical education classes.

    “Emily comes to us with a great deal of experience, a great deal of wisdom, and she’s really going to be a fresh perspective on that Western program … specializing in the horsemanship and the reining,” Liberty Director of Equestrian Programs and Head Coach Suzanne Flaig said. “She has been around horses all of her life, which is definitely beneficial on the operations side of the facility to have someone coming in with that much equine industry experience.”

    Outgoing Western Assistant Coach Madeleine Schrode and her husband, who are expecting their first child, moved back to Michigan to be closer to her family and start working for her home church.

    Cavender, who started Western equestrian riding growing up before competing in both that discipline and Hunt Seat riding at the collegiate level, said the opportunity is a dream come true. She had been searching for a program that offers both Hunt Seat and Western programs since taking the reins of the Hunt Seat team at Sewanee, the University of the South (Tenn.), guiding it to a Zone 5, Region 1 reserve championship in her last season at the helm.

    “This is the third university I’ve been involved with, but I have been to many collegiate facilities in my coaching career and would have to say this is the nicest one I’ve been to,” Cavender said. “It’s very, very nice. I’ve always thought Virginia was a really beautiful state. I came up here in April for the weekend and fell in love with Lynchburg and I went home very much hoping they would offer me the job.”

    Flaig said Cavender’s hire completes the center’s staff and sets the program up for tremendous success this season and into the future.

    “She certainly has been around enough facilities to recognize how fortunate we are to have what we have,” Flaig said. “We feel very fortunate to have the people here that we do. We feel like we have the right people in place to really take our program forward.”

    Cavender said she was sold on Liberty University’s mission of Training Champions for Christ, which “conveys easily into the athletic side of things and gives you a good foundation to teach from,” she said. “I am very impressed with how much Liberty has to offer, and how invested the university is in its students. I think a lot of the program Liberty is trying to build here. Suzanne, with her background experience, has a lot to offer as the head coach and we have a really good staff this year. I am excited to see where both teams go.”

    Due to graduation, only six or seven Western riders are returning for the 2021-22 season, but Flaig expects Cavendar to have a team similar in size to last year’s after tryouts in late August and early September.

    “We will definitely be adding both Hunt Seat and Western riders to the roster,” Flaig said, noting that an informational meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 24, at 4 p.m., when riders will sign up for the riding portion of tryouts.

    Flaig noted that Region 4 is adding a few new Western teams this year.

    “It will be a different dynamic and something I really think the students are going to benefit from,” she said.

    The Lady Flames will be traveling to Region 4 favorite St. Andrews (N.C.) University twice in the fall semester before potentially hosting a show in the spring.

    “St. Andrews is pretty formidable and has won a lot of very high-level events,” Cavender said. “I have faith in our riders that we are going to be able to hold up under the pressure.”

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Video by Olivia Bergen/Club Sports Video & Media Coordinator