From a Rider’s Perspective: The ANRC Championships

Cheyenne Sylvester, Sweet Briar College
(This essay appeared in Riding Highlights.)

The ANRC Championship, held May 1-2 in Charlottesville, VA, was an experience that I won’t soon forget. For several reasons it stands out as unique among my memories of years of horse showing. But primarily I  remember it both as being a lot of fun and as a remarkable team effort.

This was my first year at college and my first time as part of an athletic team of any sort. For me, riding and showing horses (in hunter and jumper divisions, as well as in equitation/medals) has been a way of life  for the past decade, leaving little time or opportunity for other sports, especially team sports.

Riding itself has always been an exceedingly individual activity for me and I think this has a great deal to do with how memorable competing at the ANRC finals was. I found the feeling of team enthusiasm among Sweet  Briar’s riders, as much among our independent competitors (freshmen Emily Harris, Megan Ogilvie, and Natasha Ungerer) as among those on the SBC team (junior Ashley Black, sophomore Jen Lampton, and myself), to be invigorating and refreshing.

It was just as important that my teammates have successful rounds as it was for me to do well personally. Every Sweet Briar rider was truly supportive of each and every other member of the team. The fact that I felt myself to be a member of a very cohesive team, rather than simply one of a group of riders from Sweet Briar College, added a whole new dimension to the experience and made it that much more positive. In addition, the very able  direction of our coach Paul Cronin certainly played a key role in the basic unity of the team as a whole, as he led us to our common goal.

The three-phase format of the Championships was another major contributor to its being such a memorable experience for me. The Dressage Sportif phase tested both horse and rider in a manner not often seen in hunter/jumper competition. Also, the Stadium Equitation phase, though more along the lines of what I’m accustomed to, presented a challenging course. It was made more difficult by being the final stage of  competition, and coming at a time when both horses and riders were starting to run somewhat low on energy.

Of the three, though, the cross-country phase with it openness and uneven terrain was without doubt the most demanding for me and my horse. Although my mount and I had a marvelous time, I certainly came away from it knowing what I need to work on in the future.

The ANRC Championship was quite an experience. At the end of what was simultaneously both a very long and breath-takingly short weekend, it felt wonderful to stand among my fellow Sweet Briar teammates as the winning team. Our winning margin over Hollins, St. Andrews, and UVA made it that much more exciting. Now knowing more of what to expect, I look forward to future ANRC Championships. At the same time though, I feel that this, as my first year at the finals, will always stand out as unique and, above all, as one of my  first true team experiences.