The MTSU equestrian team was driven to success at two regional Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association events this fall.
In each competition, which were about a month apart, the riding Raiders drove to great lengths to pull off both feats. There were two- and three-day, round trip drives to Maryville, Tennessee, and Murray, Kentucky, because overnight stays were prohibited under the university’s COVID-19 health protocols.
Both were part of the fall schedule that happened despite the COVID-19 pandemic, as officials for the University of Tennessee- and Murray State University-hosted events followed university, state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols to ensure safety was the top priority.
“I am particularly proud of the dedication of our students this semester,” said Ariel Herrin Higgins, director of equestrian programs and coach. “Because of the COVID-19 guidelines in place, all of these competitions meant driving back to Murfreesboro at the end of a long day each time. The team spent about six hours driving each day, and they still managed to stay focused and prepared.”
MTSU was the only team traveling daily. Herrin Higgins referenced some interesting numbers related to the extra effort.
The team took 16 riders in eight cars, two coaches and six horses altogether to Maryville.
They carried 22 students, 12 cars, two coaches and hauled six horses to Murray, and brought home 18 blue ribbons.
Murray State competition highlights
MTSU won the High Point Team all three days of competition. The riding Raiders had the High Point Rider for Days 1 and 2 with junior Taylor Meek of Murfreesboro; Reserve High Point Rider (runner-up) Day 1 with freshman Carolyn Trouten of Cleveland, Tennessee; Reserve High Point Rider Day 2 with junior Rachel Petree of Maynardville, Tennessee; and Reserve High Point Rider (Meek) on the final day.
Herrin Higgins said the team “kept our undefeated streak going this semester after our two wins at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.”
“We had a few new members show for the first time, and everyone had great debuts with the equestrian team,” she added.
UT-Knoxville competition highlights
MTSU earned High Point Team honors each day. Petree rode to Reserve High Point Rider on Day 1 and High Point Rider on the final day, and Lindsay Gilleland of Powder Springs, Georgia, earned Reserve High Point Rider on Day 2.
“This was our first attempt at the back-and-forth travel,” Herrin Higgins said. “It was a long and exhausting weekend, but we managed to still compete well, despite the trying circumstances.”
After competing and arriving in Murfreesboro about 9 p.m. that Saturday, they gathered three extra horses from the pasture they offered to bring the next day because of the show’s size, repacked the trailer and left at 4:30 a.m. Sunday with only a few hours’ sleep.
Herrin Higgins praised UT-Knoxville and Murray State event organizers for keeping things safe, plus providing overnight care for the MTSU horses.
“We are fortunate to get to compete in a great region, where we all cheer each other on, making it easier to have people from other schools staying close by be able to check on the horses, especially after we had left for the evening,” she said.
MTSU hosts Hunter Seat, Western shows in February
The team is preparing to host two IHSA events in February 2021 in Tennessee Miller Coliseum, with strict COVID-19 protocols in place as needed. The first will be the Feb. 13-14 MTSU IHSA Hunter Seat Show, followed by the Feb. 19-21 MTSU IHSA Western Show. More details to come, but Herrin Higgins said both likely will not be open to spectators.
—Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)