When you ask an average fan which sport Auburn excels at, you will most likely get football.
Some fans recently might tell you that Auburn is now a basketball school after Bruce Pearl led the Tigers on a Final Four run. But how many do you think would say equestrian?
Equestrian is not a sport that is as big as football or basketball but Auburn has been dominating the sport -- and there seems to be no turning back.
"Well first I of course would say it's horseback riding and then equestrian it can be different for different associations depending on where you are riding but for college equestrian it's made up of four different events. There's reining which I do and horsemanship which both are western events.Then we have equitation on the flat and over fences both hunt seat," said Auburn's Terri-June Granger when asked to explain what equestrian was.
Equitation Over Fences - The judges evaluate the rider’s position, consistency on course, smoothness, flow from jump to jump, the number of strides (steps taken by the horse) in a line and the rider’s plan to complete the course. Scoring for the event is out of a perfect score of 100.
Equitation on the Flat - The riders have to perform a flat test on their horses in a 40 x 20 meter arena. The test consists of nine movements to be judged on accuracy, smoothness and overall position of the rider. Each movement receives a score from 1-10. The 10th score judges the position and seat of the rider and the correctness and effectiveness of her aids. The score is out of a perfect score of 100.
Western Horsemanship - This event is designed to evaluate the rider’s ability to execute a prescribed set of maneuvers with precision and smoothness while maintaining a balanced, functional and fundamentally correct body position. The ideal horsemanship pattern consists of seven to nine maneuvers and is extremely precise with the rider and horse working in complete unison, executing each maneuver with subtle aids and cues. Exhibitors are scored for each sequence of maneuvers with a -1.5 to +1.5 score for each maneuver with a base score beginning at 70.
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Western Reining - This is a class based on set patterns and a precise scoring system. Within these patterns the horses’ and riders’ athletic abilities are tested in a series of maneuvers including spins, stops, flying lead changes and circles with changes in size and speed. In collegiate competition, the rider must perform one of the set National Reining Horse Association (NHRA) patterns. There are a total of eight parts to a reining test with each individual maneuver judged from -1.5 to +1.5 with a base score beginning at 70.
Granger is not new to accomplishments in equestrian. She was the Auburn Single Season Wins Co-Holder - Reining (13), 2018 NCEA First Team All-American (Reining), 2018 SEC Reining Freshman Rider of the Year, 2018 All-SEC (Reining) and 2018 SEC All-Freshman Team (Reining).
Competitors are matched to a horse belonging to the home team. Each rider is randomly paired and assigned a horse.
Equestrian is a high-skill sport that requires physical and mental toughness. A lot of college equestrian riders have been riding horses most of their lives. Just like other sports, riders will hire personal trainers, no matter how far away. Granger sometimes travels five hours to have sessions with her trainer.
"I started riding when I was eight and I started in horsemanship and a few other events," Granger said. And then whenever I was 12 I saw reining I wanted the horse shows I was at I was like that's what I want to do. And then I end up with a rein horse and just kind of evolved into the training and I just loved it when I started it. So I stuck with it and then I rode in the reining competitions since I was twelve and then that's when the coach brought me in as a reiner.
"I love equestrian, I love competing so I am a competitive person. I love to be able to compete. I love horses so I like to be able to compete with a partner and have that bond between you and the horse."
Being a rising junior means that Granger has been a part of the back-to-back NCEA national championship run by Auburn. The Tigers beat Georgia 8-7 in the closest match of the season for the title this year.
This capped off a perfect 18-0 record season. No other equestrian team had won every competition prior to the Tigers doing it during their 2018-19 season. This was championship No. 6 for Auburn, which ties Georgia for most national championships in equestrian.
"Unbelievable is the only word I could really use," Granger said. "The first one was, well it was great. I mean I cried but the first one was great. And obviously an unbelievable first year to win a national championship and then to win the second one back to back.
"It's almost more special to me just because I've been on the team longer and I kind of freshman year coming in knew how hard it was to get there, like you know it you're told how hard it is to get there but really just seeing like you learn more the longer you're here how hard it really is to get there because every team that's what their going for so to get it back to back with losing some great seniors last year but almost the same team. We are family."
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