Freshman Peyton Freeman ’17 qualified to compete in Hunt Seat Nationals at the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Championships to be held in West Springfield, Massachusetts, May 16-18. Peyton is one of two riders in California to qualify in the Varsity Intermediate Over Fences Class which requires riders to jump up to three feet on their usual mounts at home (compared to five feet at the Grand Prix). Peyton is among a total of 24 riders from California who will be competing in the Nationals competition, from a field of 340 students and 38 teams who competed in all classes.
Peyton has been on Athenian’s equestrian team since its formation in 2013. Only her second year competing with a scholastic equestrian team, Peyton went from placing fourth and sixth in her first competition to qualifying for Nationals this year. This is the first year Athenian will send a student to Nationals.
“Peyton rode a beautiful, nearly perfect round over fences, earning her high scores in the 80s,” said Athenian’s equestrian coach, Hilary Johnson. “Peyton’s hard work and dedication throughout the IEA season showed as she piloted her horse through the eight-fence course. Peyton has repeatedly shown that she competes well under pressure and has developed her skills at adjusting quickly to different types of horses. She has worked hard on strength training by practicing many hours without stirrups both on the flat and over fences courses. It has been a true pleasure watching her growth as an equestrian athlete and I look forward to coaching her at Nationals.”
One of the challenges of Hunt Seat, according to Johnson, is that riders do not compete on their own horses and do not use their own equipment. Riders draw a number before each class that corresponds with a horse. The riders are given a brief description of each horse and have only a few minutes to mount and adjust their stirrups. Then they are allowed an extremely limited time to perform a short two-jump warm up pattern and proceed to the competition arena. Often the rider does not get a true sense of their mount’s athletic ability until they are actually in the show ring.
More than 500 of the nation’s leading middle school and high school equestrians will compete for top prizes at the 2014 Hunt Sea Nationals Finals. The competitors represent the best of nearly 9,000 riders on more than 250 teams from eight zones in 32 states that competed in numerous shows during the year.
Good luck at Nationals, Peyton!