May 04, 2024

8th Annual USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship Kicks Off With 18 Schools Represented

Kate McGown and Curious George representing the University of Kentucky. USEA/Annan Hepner photos

Aiken, S.C.—May 4—Saturday at the 8th annual USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship saw a record number of entries trot down centerline at Stable View in Aiken, South Carolina. Riders from eighteen colleges and universities gave it their all in the dressage test before heading into either their show jumping or cross-country phase depending on their division. From Starter up through Intermediate, riders were decked out in team colors and the energy across the facility was electric with cheers.

We chatted with a handful of riders to learn more about their experience at the championship so far!

University of Kentucky Brings Large Contingency of 35 Riders

The University of Kentucky has brought their Big Blue energy to the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship since the inaugural event in 2016 and this year is no different with 35 college riders representing the Wildcats in South Carolina. They are also the 2023 defending Spirit Champion, which is a coveted prize given at the end of the weekend to the school that showcases the most team spirit across all three disciplines and around the venue.

The president of their team, Kate McGown, has had an action-packed weekend– first walking across the graduation stage on Friday to receive her diploma before she drove through the night with her parents and arrived early Saturday morning at Stable View to represent UK Eventing for the final time as a student. McGown joined the eventing team her freshman year and quickly decided she wanted to be a part of the leadership team.

“In my sophomore year, I was the secretary, my junior year I served as the vice president and this year I became the president of the team,” McGown explained. “It’s been an incredible experience and all three years I've had the privilege to work with just an amazing group of officers. I studied biomedical engineering and I’m hoping to stay in Kentucky at least through the summer and spend a little more time with George while I figure out the next steps of my career.”

McGown is competing with her 14-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Curious George (Greeley’s Galaxy x Avie’s Jill), in the Training division this weekend. Originally sourced for the New Vocations Pony Club Challenge, Curious George has been in McGown’s family since 2017 and her sister was his partner before McGown took over the reins.

“There is nothing quite like these championships and this year we have almost two barns filled with UK riders, which is so fun!” McGown concluded.

Intercollegiate competition concludes tomorrow, Sunday, May 5, at Stable View. Auburn University War Eagle is currently at the front of the pack, but the scores are tight. In addition to the title of champion, teams are also fighting for their chance to win the coveted Spirit Award. Many factors go into the decision for who will be named the most spirited team, such as stall decor, participation in extra activities such as this afternoon’s hobby horse competition and mechanical bull riding, and exhibiting above and beyond sportsmanlike behavior around the grounds.

Otterbein University Drives Nearly 10 Hours to Debut at Intercollegiate Eventing Championships

Juliana DiCesare and Fibonacci are members of the first-ever team representing Otterbein University.

Not only will the five students from Otterbein University be making history by being the first team to represent their school at this year's championship, but they also had the longest trek with their horses. A 9.5-hour drive stands between their college town of Westerville, Ohio, and the venue in Aiken.

“Everyone on the team has had such a great time so far and we are really happy to be here,” one of the Otterbein University riders, Juliana DiCesare said. “Stable View is very pretty and the team spirit is fun. I love my team and we are all here to support each other. I can always count on my teammates!”

DiCesare, a junior studying equine business, is competing on Erin Pullen’s 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Fibonacci (Artie Schiller x Goose Martini) in the Starter division, and she has enjoyed experiencing the camaraderie that is unique to this annual event.

“I started riding him in January so I’ve not had him for very long, but our dressage test was probably my best test on him – dressage is typically our hardest phase,” DiCesare explained. “He’s definitely been a really good confidence boost for me and has helped me jumping.”

All Eyes are on Defending Champs University of South Carolina Aiken

Heidi Gyselinck is representing last year's champion college, University of South Carolina-Aiken.

Last year’s championship in Tryon, North Carolina, saw the team from the University of South Carolina-Aiken ride away with the tricolor ribbon. The pressure for the Pacers is on this year not only as the returning champions but they are the hometown heroes as well.

“I’m the last rider to compete for my team so it’s a lot of pressure, especially as the hometown team!” said Heidi Gyselinck, who was a member of last year’s championship team. “I keep telling myself it’s just like any other show. Everyone on the team has had really good rides so far and the horses are behaving well.

“I’ve been on the eventing team for the last three years. My first championship didn’t go well and I was the only rider from USC Aiken that attended. Last year though was our first time we had a whole team and I love the energy of these championships. You don’t get it anywhere at any other show. The camaraderie is awesome and there are so many people watching you. I love how all the riders are so supportive of each other. Eventing is always fun but we really get to see it here with the glitter, decorations, ribbons, and parades. It’s really very cool.”

A rising senior in the nursing program, Gyselinck is competing in the Training division on Bricktop JHF, her 7-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Perfect Soul x Morning Tale).

“I’ve only had him for about two and a half years, and he was living in a pasture when I bought him,” Gyselinck continued. “He’s come a long, long way and I love him to death. He’s the best! Since last year’s championship, we’ve been focused on relaxation because our lowest scores are typically the stretchy trot and free walk. We are shooting to move up to Preliminary next season. If I ride well and set him up for success, I know he’s going to take care of me.”

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About the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program

The USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program was established in 2014 to provide a framework within which eventing teams and individual competitors could flourish at universities and colleges across the country. The USEA offers a discount of $25 on annual USEA memberships for current students at universities and colleges registered as Affiliates with the USEA. Many events across the country offer Intercollegiate Team Challenges where collegiate eventers can compete individually or on teams with their fellow students. In Intercollegiate Team Challenges, each rider’s score is multiplied by a coefficient appropriate for their level to account for differences in level difficulty, and then the individual scores are added together to determine the team score. The USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship is a capstone event for the program, which is held annually in the spring. The 2024 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship will be held at Stable View in Aiken, South Carolina, on May 4-5. Click here to learn more about the Intercollegiate Eventing Program.

The USEA would like to thank Bates Saddles, Horse & Country, Kerrits, U.S. Equestrian, WeRideTogether, and World Equestrian Brands for sponsoring the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program.

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Quick Links: June 15-16

Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.

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