Equestrian team places 6th at state championship

Oxford High School Equestrian Team (from left): Shannon Trezil, Jennyayn Gill, Kaitlyn Trezil, Zanna Sayeau, Riley Hodder, Olivia Dorman, Ava Holman, Mackenzie Rivera, Julianna Miller, Elyssa Main, Emerson Lantz, Dee Shepard, Jennifer Fifield and Jacqueline Kubiba. Photo provided.

Things didn’t go as well as hoped during the Oxford High School Equestrian Team’s 20th consecutive trip to the state championship, but Head Coach Dee Shepard is still “very proud” of the riders’ performances.

“All in all, the kids never quit trying,” she said. “Every class, we went in (with the intention of doing) our very best and they did. They rode hard.”

Earning a total of 153 points, Oxford finished sixth out of 11 teams in Division B at the Michigan Interscholastic Horsemanship Association (MIHA) State Championship held Oct. 9-13 at the Midland County Fairgrounds. Forty-one equestrian teams from across the state competed in four divisions.

Goodrich won the Division B state championship with 345 points, while Zeeland West was named reserve champion with 252 points.

“Goodrich was outstanding,” Shepard said. “They came ready to play . . . You could tell they were very well-prepared as was Zeeland West. It was very stiff competition.”

Shepard said Oxford’s overall performance was hampered by “some mistakes” and “some uncooperative horses” on its part as well as some judges’ decisions that simply didn’t go the team’s way.

“There were (areas where) we could certainly improve. We will work on (those) for next year,” she said.

A few Oxford riders placed first, second and third in the various classes at the state championship.

Senior Emerson Lantz took first place in the Hunt Seat Bareback class. Riders wear hunt seat attire and use a hunt seat bridle and bit(s), but they perform the entire class bareback (without a saddle).

Lantz also took both first and second place in the Hunt Seat Equitation class.

Junior Riley Hodder and senior Zanna Sayeau earned first and second, respectively, in the Hunt Seat Over Fences class.

Third place finishes were achieved by Hodder in Saddle Seat Equitation and Ava Holman in Western Equitation.

Shepard noted the team encountered “some unusual challenges” this season. She pointed out that two Oxford riders had to compete on horses they were unfamiliar with after one horse died six weeks before the team’s first meet and another horse became lame between the first two meets.

That’s quite difficult because “it takes six months to a year (for a rider) to get to know a horse” and develop the type of close relationship that leads to success at competitions, Shepard explained.

Despite all this, Oxford’s riders never “backed down,” according to Shepard. She said they all “stepped up” and “really did excel” by winning at the district and regional levels and earning the right to compete at the state championship for the 20th time in 20 years.

Shepard is already looking forward to next season and encourages any student who is interested in joining to contact her by calling OHS at (248) 969-5100. To join, a student must have a horse to ride whether he or she owns it, leases it or borrows it. They also must have their own tack.

“We do not provide the horses or the equipment,” Shepard said.


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