CHARLESTON, S.C. - The College of Charleston athletic department had the chance to catch up with a few of the seniors from the equestrian team which finished its fall campaign with a dominant victory in their host show at Storybook Farms.
The squad will admit it didn't reach its full potential with a fourth-place finish in the team's opening show at Florida State back in mid-October. The Cougars, under 28th-year head coach Bob Story, regrouped, however, and finished no-worse-than second place in the team's remaining four shows.
The Cougars finished the fall with back-to-back team first-place finishes including the dominant, nine-point victory in the team's home show to move into second place in the International Horse Show Association (IHSA) Zone 5 Region 3 standings.
Through the completed fall portion of the season, 16 different riders combined to give CofC 24 best-in-class performances.
The athletic department recently sat down with four of the seven seniors on the team to chat about the season to date, their plans to stay focused over the winter break and some of their aspirations beyond their time at CofC. We will catch up with the remaining three as the team gets ready for the spring schedule which resumes on Feb. 4 at the University of Miami.
McKenzie is a senior from Murrells Inlet, S.C., majoring in communication and hopes to get involved with pharmaceutical sales. She describes her experience at the College of Charleston as a memorable one, one which will be missed terribly.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your success at your last home show of this season? You got a first-in-class for the Open Flat?
A: From my first competition of this year, I didn't do as well as I usually do which was very disappointing. So at practice, I would work harder and harder and speak to my coaches about what I could improve. We hosted a very good horse show. I road well and felt really confident going in there. I had the right attitude and thankfully got the job done. Our team pulled through with a big win over our rival school so we are catching up to them.
Q: You have a big break until your next competition in February, so how are you going to prepare over the break?
A: The horses will stay at Storybook, so we can call [head coach] Bob [Story] and go over there and practice. A lot of us have horses at home that we can ride to stay in shape. If we all work hard over break, then we don't need to work as hard when we come back.
Q: You are a communication major. What are your plans when you graduate?
A: I would like to be a pharmaceutical rep. I would also like to be a working student for a big trainer and work for some big horse shows... travel a little... kind of get that under my belt before I hit the real world. Hopefully I can get into pharmaceutical sales or medical equipment. Being a large-animal vet would be my ultimate goal.
Q: Do you think being at the College of Charleston and being on the equestrian team will help you out with your goals?
A: Absolutely. I have taken great classes and my professors have been awesome with helping me out a lot. My team has been great too. They have molded me into the person I am today. I have grown to love each and every one of them. They are my second family... my home away from home. They have really turned me into a well-rounded person.
Emily is a senior from Columbia, S.C., majoring in economics and political science. Emily hopes to finish her college equestrian career on a high before hitting the books again at graduate school. Emily is in the process of applying to schools and she is sure that her time at the College and being on the Equestrian team has better equipped her for the future.
Q: Speak to me a little about the season so far. How have you all come together as a team?
A: We were all really disappointed in ourselves after the first few show because we knew we could do better. The competition is really tough this year. Bob [Story] had a motivating speech for us and I think he really put the fire under us. We wanted to do better and make him proud... and make ourselves proud... and reclaim our position as number one. Now we are back on track with that.
Q: What do you and the girls plan on doing over the break to stay on target?
A: We are going to go out to barn as much as we can, just so our horses are not on a long break and we don't seem like we are on a long break. We want to keep riding strong so we are in good shape when we return and can continue our success.
Q: How are you feeling as you had a fall at practice not too long ago?
A: The timing of it was kind of good; I fell off at the very last practice of the season so I am not missing out on official practice. I am healing pretty quickly so it shouldn't be too much of a problem. It's not a major injury so I should be fine.
Q: You are a senior graduating with a degree in economics and political science and want to go to law school? What law school do you have in mind?
A: I am planning on going straight to law school. I am applying to Charleston Law, S.C. Law and Emory Law. We will see where I get in and if I get any scholarship that may help out in my decision making. I will find out in the spring.
Rachel is a senior rider from Auburn, Ala., majoring in international business and French. Rachel knows she has a soft spot for her favorite horse, Moose. She hopes to eventually go to graduate school and hopes to have a successful career where she can be financially independent of her parents.
Q: How was the recent home show?
A: It was a great weekend! We pretty much dominated. We started the season slow so it was nice to come back strong, especially at home. I think next semester will be good for us and we can catch up in the standings.
Q: You all have a huge team. How do you make sure you all keep fit over the break so you can keep performing?
A: It is up to each individual to do her job. A lot of us have our own horses at home so we can keep riding, but then a lot of us don't. We have to be sure to keep some form of physical fitness.
Q: Congratulations on receiving first-in-class honors at the Georgia Southern Show.
A: Thank you, it was great. There was a lot of pressure because we only brought four horses to Georgia. So, we only had four of our horses and then all the rest were Georgia Southern's. For my class, I actually drew one of our horses; I drew Moose! I like to put it as, "If you can't ride Moose, you need to reevaluate if this is your sport." I said to myself, "Wait, I can't mess up on Moose." Moose is a very special guy. I was very happy to have Moose.
Q: You are an international business and French major? What are your next steps in life?
A: Graduate of course, and then I would like to work for a couple of years and then go back to grad school. I do want to go back to grad school, but since I don't know what I want to study I would rather work first and have a better idea before spending all that money. I would like to eventually have a career that I love and be financially independent of my parents.
Jessica is a native South Carolinian and joined us at the College of Charleston from Conway, S.C. She hopes to eventually teach high school Spanish and Russian. This may seem challenging (particularly Russian) but she is motivated to get certified and enjoys challenges. Jessica has had an amazing experience at the College and has really enjoyed being a part of the Equestrian team.
Q: How has the fall season been for you and the team so far?
A: So far the season has been fun. It always starts rough at the beginning because we have to figure out how to work best with what we have got. We also have to teach the new girls about the new system at college as it is a lot different than high school. Once we figured that out it all started going smoothly.
Q: I understand that you want to teach Spanish and Russian?
A: Yes, I'm working towards certification in Spanish so I will be able to teach in high school, but I am actually also working towards my certification in Russian. I am hoping to eventually start a Russian program in high schools.
Q: That is really interesting, how did you pick Russian?
A: I really wanted a challenge and I really like learning languages. I wanted something that was completely different from English and Spanish.
Q: What do you plan on doing once you graduate? Will you go back to Conway?
A: I plan on staying in the Charleston area so I can keep riding with Bob [Story] and the CofC equestrian team.