A new era in the Albion College equestrian program starts this weekend as the stock seat team travels to the Shiawassee County Fairgrounds for its first ever competition at the varsity level.
Albion elevated the stock seat and dressage disciplines to varsity status for the 2017-18 academic year, following the lead of the hunt seat team which competed as a varsity team last year.
Taylor Sandberg, a senior from Spring Lake, Mich., says while the Briton riders are excited to compete for the first time this season, they also know the Saturday and Sunday doubleheaders are a significant chunk of the schedule.
The Britons have only one more show scheduled during the fall semester, a Nov. 4 date in Nunica, Mich., with Grand Valley State University serving as the host.
"We want to bring home ribbons, but we have to shake out nerves because of the faith the athletic administration has put in the team," Sandberg said. "We currently have eight shows on the schedule for the year, and with this show counting as four with doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday, this counts as 50 percent of the competition for the year.
"We will come home drained," she added.
Alex Carducci, a first-year rider from Ottawa Lake, Mich., will compete at the highest level – open reining. Another first-year rider, Makenna Ware from Williamston, Mich., will compete in the advanced division, while Michelle O'Dell, a sophomore from Mount Morris, Mich., is entered in the Intermediate II division.
Elliot Brinker, a senior from Livonia, Mich., is close to gaining the points required to advance to the regional show at the end of the season.
Perhaps most exciting is the prospect of having so many riders entered in the beginner division. There are seven first-year riders beside Carducci and Ware on the roster.
And then there is the excitement with the addition of Nathan Horsman, a Certified Horsemanship Association master instructor, as western coach, as well as the facility upgrades at the college's Nancy G. Held Equestrian Center.
"The facility is gorgeous and huge with new footing put in over the last two weeks and Nathan did a lot to bring in more horses to ride," Sandberg said.
Follow all of the Briton equestrian teams at @AlbionRiding on Twitter. General athletic department news is available on Twitter, @gobrits, and on Facebook, facebook.com/albionathletics.