URI equestrian team wins 2nd regional title
KINGSTON, R.I. – May 2, 2014 – The University of Rhode Island’s equestrian team won its second straight regional championship against some of the top teams in New England.
After having finished second for four straight years, the second-year- champion Rams are now the team to beat among the elite in New England, including several varsity squads competing in Region 1 of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association.
“The Northeast is the most competitive, and the talent in this region is incredible,” said 12-year coach Pam Steere-Maloof, who trains the Rams at her Faith Hill Farm in East Greenwich.
Roger Williams University finished second and Johnson and Wales University finished third among the 11 New England teams. Other members include Brown University, the College of the Holy Cross, Assumption College, Clark University and Rhode Island College.
If you think equestrian competitions are filled with niceties, the sport demands the ultimate in poise and adaptability. Riders do not pick the horses at the shows; they are chosen in a random draw. In addition, the riders get no opportunity to warm up with or get to know the horses before they compete. Imagine a golfer using a strange set of clubs during a match, or a baseball catcher trying to break in a new mitt during a game and you have some idea of the skill required of the riders.
Emily Caron, a sophomore journalism student from Oakham, Mass., won first place in the open hunt seat equitation, the most advanced classification in the program.
Caron looked at Centenary and Cazenovia colleges because of their strong equestrian teams, but chose URI instead.
“We have a great group of dedicated girls,” said Caron, a team captain who also models for Dynasty Models in Boston and appeared in a Diane Von Furstenberg show. “The competitive level of our team is excellent,” said the dean’s list student.
Steere-Maloof said she is proud to coach the 50-member team. “I want to help them understand what they have to go through to be great,” she said. “We have had team practices in the rain and everyone is there. People stay on this team, and when it comes time for shows, even those not competing travel to the events to cheer on their teammates. The great thing about intercollegiate equestrian competition is the wide range of expertise. Anyone who wants to ride for us, and who wants to commit fully to the team is welcome.”
Other key scorers for URI in their quest for the regional title were: Sierra Davis, a sophomore from Williston, Vt., who was first in the walk-trot division, and Chelsea Reid, of Seekonk, Mass. who finished second.
“Emily is in the highest division, while Sierra had little more than six months of riding lessons when she joined the team,” Steere-Maloof said.
She added that her student-athletes are not only great competitors, but they are also mentors. The riders volunteer with children and clients from the Trudeau Center, a Warwick landmark since the early 1960s that works to ensure that people with disabilities be allowed full citizenship within their own communities. The URI riders also mentor school-age riders at Faith Hill Farm, and they are hoping to work with Steere-Maloof in developing a program of assisted psychotherapy, specializing in addication recovery and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“When the little ones see the URI students and what they can do, they have stars in their eyes,” Steere-Maloof said.
Lauren Foley, a junior public relations major who competed in cross country and track at South Kingstown High School, is the captain for the team’s dressage unit, which does not include jumping in competitions. She did not want to enroll at URI at first.
“But I took the tour and I liked it. I just didn’t tell my father,” she said with a giggle. “Once I was here, I saw the equestrian team at First Night and was hooked. Now my dad goes to all my shows even though he is allergic to horses.
“Being on the team is a lot of work,” she said. “We have lessons once a week, which we work around our classes,” said Foley, who has a 3.7 grade point average and who also serves as a resident assistant in Hopkins Hall.
But it’s more than just practices and mentoring younger riders. Team members sometimes are up at 3 a.m. so they can be ready to leave Faith Hill Farms at 5 a.m. the day of shows.
Katie Williams, a freshman animal and veterinary science major from Rochester, N.Y., said being on the team helped her make friends right away, and team members have helped tutor her in her difficult classes. “I talked with the captains the very first day and they were so welcoming.”
Because equestrian is such an expensive sport, the women have learned to be resourceful. They rely on alumni like Kayla Prefontaine, who helps with riding tips and logistical support.
Williams said before a show, team members get together to share riding clothes because not every rider can afford all of the equipment.
“Many times before a show, I am doing people’s hair,” she said.
“This is a very special group,” Steere-Maloof said. “Our plan is to be unstoppable. The team members are not just great riders, they are just good people and they are going to go out and do good in the world.”
Emily Caron of Oakham, Mass. holds up a first-place ribbon from one URI’s competitions this year.
Sierra Davis of Williston, Vt. in action during a show
Lauren Foley of South Kingstown competes in a show
Katie Williams of Victor, N.Y. poses with Mazy
Members of the New England URI equestrian team pose with the team banner
Photos courtesy URI equestrian team
Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862