Competition began Thursday and continues through Saturday at the Extraco Events Center in Waco, Texas.
The three days of competition follow the banquet held Wednesday night, and the champion will be crowned Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
“We’ve got good seedings for nationals; being exempt in the first round for both is quite an accomplishment,” said Auburn coach Greg Williams. “That is two years in a row that we have done that. We have to put out special kudos to the hunt seat girls being the No. 1 seed going into nationals.”
The bye gives Auburn’s riders the chance to assess their competitors.
“The byes are always a great thing because you go into nationals and you get to settle in, watch some competitions and calm your nerves,” said senior Western rider Kristen Hansen. “I always feel like that’s great for us when we go in because we are ready for our team and we have seen them compete before that.”
Other SEC schools competing include Georgia and South Carolina. Current national rankings have Georgia at No. 1 with 63 team points, South Carolina at No. 3 with 55 points and Auburn at No. 5 with 48 points.
“Just like anybody that watches March Madness, any time you don’t have to play is one step you can’t fumble on,” Williams said. “You obviously just take them and you are proud of the accomplishment. You also can be one of those tragic stories of ‘you got beat by somebody you shouldn’t lose to.’”
The Gamecocks beat the Bulldogs in the Southern Equestrian Championships last month in a final tiebreaker after defeating Auburn in the opening meet 12–6.
“I think that South Carolina is severely under-ranked and is going to be a tough team to ride against come nationals,” said Georgia coach Meghan Boeing.
Outside of the rigor of equestrian competition, the Auburn equestrian team also excels in the classroom.
Nine riders earned the Academic All-American award presented by the National Collegiate Equestrian Association. Auburn also had four first-team All-Americans, two second-team selections and three honorable mentions.
“I ask both of my assistant coaches to focus on the future for our girls with each decision they make,” Williams said. “We love the accomplishments our girls make in the arena, but the number of Academic All-Americans we have is a great statement for the girls in achieving what is most important.”