For years the Otterbein University Equestrian Team has stood as a symbol of dressage excellence, most notably with a recent run of three consecutive national titles.
Dressage is a graceful and very disciplined equestrian sport that demonstrates a connection between rider and horse. It involves a series of precise choreographed movements that showcase the horse's agility, balance, and obedience with the riders.
On April 23, the equestrian team secured its third consecutive national championship. The program continues to succeed year in and year out. Nonetheless, this year, the dressage team faces the challenge of extending its winning streak despite significant losses in experienced students.
“As far as people that competed last year at IDA nationals, we have 5 returning members of the team, and that doesn’t include the members that didn’t compete in nationals,” said Julia Spatt, eventing coach and riding instructor. Spatt is an Otterbein alumna who graduated in 2014 and participated on all three equestrian teams. She has worked with top riding professionals throughout her career and specializes in a sport called "eventing" which consists of dressage and two jumping phases.
Despite the national competition being scheduled for the spring, preparations for the upcoming year are already underway, aligning with the program's commitment to excellence. Each rider at the barn is required to participate in two one-hour riding lessons per week, in addition to attending extra team practices on a monthly basis. The practice frequency will increase as the team gears up for their first competition of the year this coming fall.
“Our teams for the last couple years have certainly been very prepared and diligent about prepping for nationals. I know this year they did a lot of extra practices in the barn to work with their horses," said Spatt. Head coach Jennifer Roth provided some of her personal horses to the team, allowing them to practice with different mounts, getting into the saddle, and repetitions. This, according to Spatt, “gave them an edge,” in their competition.
While the team lost a significant amount of experience from last year's championship team, the equestrian team is set to regain junior Giselle Fead, who was absent last year. Fead also played with the women’s lacrosse team last spring, but her season was cut short due to a torn ACL, which prevented her from participating in both sports for the rest of the season.
“Last year took a toll on me with not being able to continue the final part of the spring season for dressage. I am looking forward to being ready to go this year and get back into it,” said Fead. She competed last year in multiple shows during the fall and is looking forward to getting back in the arena.
“Otterbein dressage has a huge reputation for making it far in the season and over the past three years, winning nationals. The standards are set high for the team but that's what is motivating us to do our best,” she said.
Fead plans to bounce back this season so she can help the Otterbein Equestrian team continue its prestigious streak of national titles.