Program making progress, looking to grow as season approaches its end
UC Davis equestrian hosted its final home meet against No. 9 Fresno State on Saturday, ultimately falling 12-4. The Aggies now stand at 1-4 on the season that started in late January, while the Bulldogs improved to 4-6.
While not a new event for the Aggie riders, fans, friends and family were able to watch reining for the first time at UC Davis, as the event was not held during the team’s first home meet on Jan. 31. Reining, a discipline in western riding, is an event where riders perform a set of prescribed patterns which include spins, flying lead changes, circles, back-ups and the sliding stop. This last maneuver requires the rider to build up speed and suddenly stop the horse on its hind legs.
“It’s a fun event, everybody loves it,” said Head Coach Jessie Weisinger.
Throughout its season, the reining squad hasn’t been able to actually practice on reining horses, which are trained in a fashion that suits the relatively fast pace of the format.
“But [the reining team] has been hanging in right there with the other teams,” Weisinger said.
Despite the lack of reining horses, senior Laurel Jackson and sophomore Charlize Zuraek were able to snatch a pair of reining points two weeks ago against No. 4 Southern Methodist University, a team that has sent riders to the Collegiate Reining Championships for the past two years. Visiting Fresno State’s Paige Barton was also selected as a representative for last year’s championship.
Zuraek went head-to-head with Barton and fell only a point short, 73.0-72.0.
“Today we knew it was going to be tricky,” Zureak said, noting that Fresno State supplied the reining horses for Saturday’s meet, giving the away team the familiarity edge with the horses’ quirks and tendencies.
Senior western rider Haley Fredericks made the decision to attend UC Davis for academic reasons, but when she found out UC Davis would add an equestrian program in her last year as a student, she saw it as an opportunity to fulfill her goal of riding for a Division I equestrian program.
“This was a really good experience, I’m glad I have this under my belt,” Fredericks said of her experience riding for the team in her final year. “I had a year to get used to it, it was really fast and furious and I went out there with a positive mentality and enjoyed every minute of it.”
Junior hunt seat riders Sabin Marquardt and Stephanie Don secured two points early on in the equitation over fences event, while freshman Keely Laughlin finished out the event with a score of 81.0 to beat her opponent’s score of 76.0.
Laughlin also posted UC Davis’ best score of the day on the flat with an 80.0, and it appeared that UC Davis would have secured that point, but her opponent, Alex Dirickson, topped Laughlin’s score with Fresno State’s best score of the afternoon, an 85.0.
Freshman Laura Wise secured the lone UC Davis point on the flat with a score of 70.0.
“The girls are making huge improvements, they’re gaining confidence,” Weisinger said, noting the continual progress the team has made since the first meet back in January.
Moving forward, Weisinger will start recruiting more riders in the summer. The UC Davis roster currently lists 19 riders. More established programs typically have much larger rosters — Fresno State, for example, lists 34 riders.
The program is looking to add 12 new horses over this summer as well, says Weisinger. This would double the program’s current supply of competitive horses..
UC Davis will travel to Fresno to square off against Fresno State one last time on March 30, before traveling to Waco, Tex. for the NCEA Championships in April.
“The work’s not done, it’ll be busy over this summer for sure,” Weisinger said.
Written by: Bobby John — firstname.lastname@example.org