SDSU Equestrians look forward to year
Four minutes. That’s all the time an SDSU Equestrian Team member is allowed to ride an unfamiliar horse before showing it in a complicated huntseat flat pattern, western horsemanship pattern, reining pattern, or over fences. To say the home team has an advantage versus the road weary in this sport is an understatement, and with only two home meets this year, SDSU will need to be on their toes. But this doesn’t stop the 37 girls from being competitive.
SDSU has made the shift from Intercollegiate Horse Show Association to National Collegiate Athletic Association, which changes the schools against whom they compete. The format varies slightly in the latter association in that hunt seat patterns are closer to a dressage pattern than a traditional English equitation pattern. Riders are scored one through 10 on about 10 maneuvers that may include a leg yield, shoulders in, no stirrups, turn on the haunches, counter canter, or others.
The rider and opponent ride the same animal, said hunt coach Marielle Golden, who joined the team as coach just this year. “Regardless of luck of the draw, the home team gets an advantage, but it sometimes depends if someone goes first, they can get more out of that animal,” Golden said. “The format is definitely more on the fair side.”
Coach Golden chooses about 10 of their 20 current hunt horses to compete on her side, and western coach Morgan Diguilio chooses her mounts. Golden considers the opinions of her team members regarding the picks.
“I have the final say of what we can use, but I also ask the girls,” she said. “The ones they feel most confident on, we pick. They’ll be more successful that way.”
Equestrian team horses are gained primarily through donation or lease, though some are purchased.
“Having quality horses for the team to practice on is very important. If our horses are not able to perform at the competitive level, it puts us at a disadvantage,” Golden said. “When we’ve been given a horse, we give them a 30-day trial. If they don’t work, we give them back to the owners. We want a horse to be productive and safe for the program.”
The program leans to the community and state for support in this aspect, as well as funding to keep the facility in working order, including the fencing, jumps, arena footing, and care of the horses. A program called One Day for State, which is a one-day fundraiser effort that raised $1.384 million, is a large source of financial aid for the team, though support from the community is always appreciated, Golden said.
Golden, a Florida native, was recruited to the SDSU equestrian team, and throughout her show career from 2012 to 2016, she set records that she hopes her girls beat but also enjoys still holding today.
“I definitely had a really great and positive experience,” she said. “I was given the impact award from SDSU.”
Her own experience is a recruiting tactic for Golden, who hopes to expand the team from about 15 girls on the hunt side this year to 20 next year, with four seniors graduating at the end of the school year.
“They’re going to be big fish in a small pond, which is a huge draw for some girls,” she said of incoming recruits. “When they go to these big schools, the could sit on the bench until their junior year.”
Claire Garduno, a senior from Minneapolis, Minnesota, uses the competitive nature of the roster to drive her to work harder.
“As someone who in her freshman year didn’t make roster to someone who has been on the roster every time we’ve traveled, making that small of a jump has been so rewarding to me as an individual and college athlete,” Garduno said.
The team competes as a whole to win meets, but athletes can be honored individually, usually as All-American or runner-up All-American athletes. Garduno was also awarded Ariat All-American Honorable Over Fences.
“Our sport has a lot to do with hard work, but it is also subjective to judging style, which is based on numbers but also somewhat on opinions,” Garduno said. “With that being how I ended last year, during my senior year I want to continue where I left off and not just hope for luck.”
The top-ten ranked schools in each division qualify for nationals, as with any other collegiate sport. SDSU has qualified in the past and hopes to again this year.