On Sunday, May 19 in Lexington, Kentucky, Transylvania University hosted their annual all-sport athletic banquet with one team missing. The eventing team was on their way home from the 2019 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship at Chattahoochee Hills Horse Trials in Fairburn, Georgia. Knowing that senior and team captain Abby Blackburn was a finalist for the school’s Female Athlete of the Year award, she and Transylvania’s eventing coach Tanya Davis anxiously watched a live stream of the banquet from the road.
“They announced that I had won, and we couldn’t believe it,” said Blackburn, “I was up against soccer players, basketball players, golfers, all the traditional school sports, and they chose an event rider. How cool is that?”
The Transylvania eventing program was formed in 2012 and Blackburn has been a member since the fall of 2015. In that time, the team has gone from four riders to 12.
“I completed my first recognized horse trial the summer before my freshman year,” Blackburn remembered. “It was something I always wanted so badly, but it just wasn’t realistic for me until I joined the school team. Suddenly, I was traveling all over the southeast competing at venues I’d never thought I’d make it to. It really has been a dream, and without the support of the school and Coach Davis I don’t think it ever could’ve happened.”
Blackburn had multiple wins at the Beginner Novice and Novice level last year and was named the 2018 USEA Novice Intercollegiate Rider of the Year.
“Our school is NCAA Division III, so the eventing program is the only chance we get to go up against the big D1 schools,” Blackburn reported, “I think that’s a great thing for the school, and knowing the other coaches respect our sport enough to vote me Athlete of the Year is such a big deal for the program. You just don’t see that at other Universities.”
Blackburn is sad to be graduating and leaving the team, but she is far from done with eventing. She plans to continue working in the horse industry after graduation and hopes to be a professional rider and trainer in the future.
Female Athlete of the Year is a huge honor to be given to anyone in any sport. However, as far as we know, this is the first time in history that a University has given this award to an event rider. For information about the Transylvania University eventing program, contact team coach Tanya Davis at [email protected].
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