On Feb. 29, the University of Connecticut Western Equestrian Team hosted the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) Regional Competition. Also competing at the event were Central Connecticut State University, Mount Holyoke College and the University of Massachusetts.
The day started with the Beginner class of riders. Rachel Bugella, a fourth-semester ACES student in her second year on the Western team, explained that each Western competition is separated into skill classes, each of which is judged on certain technical abilities.
“You go around the arena at different speeds as commented by the judge,” Bugella said. “You get judged on how tall you’re sitting, and how in control your horse is and if you’re doing the right things at the right time.”
Bugella placed fourth in the Beginner class.
Following the Beginner class was the Rookie class, in which UConn represented eight out of the 22 riders competing.
Lily Bello, a sixth-semester animal science major and vice president of the Western Team, is one of the team’s Rookie class riders. Bello said that each rider’s competition day starts early when they begin preparation for the event.
“You wake up really early, you get to the venue, everyone prepares together. So we do hair and makeup, and you get all your gear on, your chaps, your boots, your hat,” Bello said.
From there, the riders compete, and then team standings are determined by the points earned by the riders in their respective classes.
“Everyone is in separate classes individually, but we all compete as a team,” Bello said.
Bello explained that every class has a point rider for each team, which is the person whose placement determines whether the team earns points for that class. The team is then ranked based on accumulation of points throughout the day.
The final class that UConn competed in was the Level 1 class, in which Amy Pruner represented the team.
Head coach Jeremy Mimitz joined the team in September of 2019. He explained that this event is the team’s last before the IHSA national semi-final competition in West Virginia.
“They have to get so many points throughout the season to be able to qualify for regionals, and then the top two in the class make it on to semi-finals,” Mimitz said.
Out of the 11 competing riders from UConn, two will advance to the IHSA semi-finals: Pruner, who placed second in the Level 1 class, and Cassidy Muchinero, who placed first in the Beginner class.
Mimitz said that this has so far been a successful season for the Western team.
“It’s been really good. We’ve almost tripled our team in size,” Mimitz said. “We’re looking forward to semi-finals, and hopefully nationals.”
Grace McFadden is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.