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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Easy riders: UA equestrian heads to nationals

    Sara Stewart, an animal sciences equine industires senior brushes Mickey, after giving him a brief hose down. Stewart has been riding for 17 years and has qualified for the opening reining national competition which takes place in Harrisburg, PA, MAy 4-7. (photo by chris coduto/arizona daily wildcat)
    Sara Stewart, an animal sciences equine industires senior brushes Mickey, after giving him a brief hose down. Stewart has been riding for 17 years and has qualified for the opening reining national competition which takes place in Harrisburg, PA, MAy 4-7. (photo by chris coduto/arizona daily wildcat)

    For the first time in university history, a member of the UA’s equestrian team will sport the Arizona Wildcat name in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association’s 2006 National Championships.

    Sara Stewart, an animal science senior, rode her way to nationals by placing second in both the Southern California regional qualifying round and Zone 8 qualifier to beat more than 25 college riders vying for a position.

    Stewart will travel to Harrisburg, Pa., May 6 to compete in her division of Western open reining, a competition where riders are scored on a point system for how well they handle their horses.

    “”I’m really excited. This is my second year showing on IHSA, so it’s really a big accomplishment to make it so far,”” Stewart said. “”I’ve been practicing a lot.””

    Team members said Stewart’s accomplishments have been inspiring and have made them proud.

    “”She’s worked really hard to do this,”” said Laura Walker, the team’s coach. “”Since it’s her last semester, this a wonderful way for her final semester in college to end.””

    Equestrian riding in IHSA competitions is different than in other organizations because riders don’t use their own horses.

    Instead, the athletes are given a random horse provided by the competition host and are required to compete without practicing.

    “”They are judged on the rider’s skill level and being able to adapt to their horse,”” Walker said. “”It’s how well the rider can quickly learn how to ride and show the horse as best they can.””

    Members have supported the team with fundraisers and donations since the team began in 2001 and started competing in IHSA competitions in 2002, Walker said.

    “”It’s cool that someone from the team made it to nationals,”” said Kerissa Kelly-Slatten, a teammate. “”It is inspiring because right now it gives me hope for making it in the future,”” the finance sophomore said.

    Throughout the season, the team competes against seven teams, including Pac-10 rival University of Southern California, in the IHSA’s Southern California Region 8.

    During a Western open reining competition, each rider is judged for five to 10 minutes on how well he maneuvers the horse through a predetermined pattern.

    After completion, two judges will score Stewart’s performance based on how well she controlled her horse through the pattern and how willing it was to complete the maneuvers.

    Riders can be deducted points for not staying on the designated pattern, temporary loss of control of the horse’s movements and not being fast enough.

    The team routinely practices at the UA’s Campus Agricultural Center, 4101 N. Campbell Ave.

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