The Tigers (6-5) participated in the Varsity National Equestrian Championships April 16-18 in Waco, Texas, as one of the 12 teams in the Hunt Seat and Western competitions.
Auburn is ranked No. 1 in Hunt seat, a form of English riding, and eighth in Western.
“Our girls rode very hard,” said head coach Greg Williams. “I’m proud of their efforts, proud of what the Hunt Seat riders did in the arena, but I just wish the scores could have reflected the effort to win a national title.”
Sophomore Anna Schierholz and freshman Maggie McAlary were selected third and fifth respectively to compete in Hunt Seat Equitation over Fences for individual competition, and sophomore Paige Monfore was selected third in Western Reining. Both Schierholz and McAlary advanced, but lost in the semifinals.
“It was a huge honor,” Monfore said. “It was really exciting because individually somebody thought you were good enough to ride on your own.”
While Monfore didn’t advance, Williams thinks she has improved this season.
“She has adapted to college riding extremely well and has had dominant rides all year,” Williams said. “She’s pushing hard, and she’s learning how to pick up scores on even the toughest horses.”
The team lost 6-2 in Western to New Mexico State Thursday in the first round and was defeated in both Horsemanship and Reining.
“I thought that we didn’t execute really well in the Western,” Williams said. “We had both mental mistakes and some physical mistakes that just cost us.”
In Horsemanship, Jessica Jones had the high score of the round, defeating Codi Blinkerd 146-143, and in Western, Reining Jones defeated Rachael Krause 134.5-127.
“I was really happy with the way I rode this weekend, it was probably the two best rides I’ve had all year,” Jones said.
The top-seeded Tigers received a bye for the first round of the Hunt Seat division and had a close call Friday over eighth-seeded Kansas 4-4 (1061-1048).
In the Hunt Seat Equitation over Fences, winners included Grace Socha, who defeated Leslie Yates 171-126, and Maggie McAlary over Kendall Marvin 169-156.
Auburn tied Kansas State 2-2 in the Hunt Seat Equitation over Flat, and winners included Jenny Reinhart over Whitney Snyder 151-148 and Katie Breedlove 169-156 over Leslie Yates.
In the third round, the Tigers pulled out another win against fourth-seed Baylor 5-3.
The Hunt seat team won the Championship title last season and advanced to the championship round Saturday against second-seed Georgia, where they fell just short of the title.
“I was really happy with how I rode, and I think that for my first time at nationals as a freshman it was really good experience, and I can’t wait to go back,” McAlary said.
Georgia won the Hunt Seat Equitation over Fences 3-1 and Hunt Seat Equitation on the Flat 4-0. Maggie McAlary had the high score in Fences over Kacy Jenkins 174-152.
“We were glad to get the win, and it was great to get into the championship round,” Williams said. “While it was an honor to be reserved national champions, it’s still tough right now to take the fall.”
The Tigers had a strong season and were particularly dominant in Hunt Seat.
While Western struggled, the team fought hard to make it to the final round in Hunt Seat this past weekend.
“We went out there and we laid it on the line, tried our hardest and rode to the best of our ability,” Monfore said. “The chips didn’t really fall in our favor, and that happens sometimes in our sport.”