"This is my second year on the team. This is my first year competing. It's a lot of fun and definitely a different experience," says Kim Newkirk, junior on the WT Equestrian Team.
The Lady Buffs won their second-consecutive National Semi-Finals show this March, and are making another trip back to the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championship to defend their title.
"There will be over 400 riders that will be competing next week all vying for the national championship, either in their individual competition or a team competition. The stakes will be very high and it's an honor to have come this far and qualify this far," explains head coach, Amanda Love.
The Intercollegiate Horse Show Association gives riders of all skills the opportunity to compete individually and as teams in equestrian competition. Riders will compete in both western and English disciplines.
"You have to accumulate 36 points to qualify for the region championship, and in the region championship you have to be in the top two in your respective division in your class in order to qualify for semi-finals. Then at semi-finals you have to be in your top four in your class to make it to nationals. It's the top 12 in the nation in your respective division individually," explains senior on the team, Kayla Wells.
Twelve out of the 38 riders that make up the team will be competing at nationals. Their events range from hunt seat, reining and western horsemanship in both individual and team events.
"The wonderful thing about our program is that there's such a legacy between the students. They know what it means to work hard, they know what it means to have a strong work ethic and strive for a goal and a unity. So as we make a charge to repeat that, or even have a level of success is that everyone has bought into this now," explains Amanda.
"I'm expecting it to be challenging but our team this year is really strong," says Kim.
"We're still working out, practicing and stepping on as many possible mounts as we can just to be prepared for whatever we get on at nationals," explains senior, Marilyn Brandt.
Coach Amanda Love says they're able to take this many riders because they're successful at what they do, "While we have big ambition our goal is to go and lay down rides that cannot be ignored."
"We're all phenomenal riders. It comes down to the nitty-gritty and getting our positions where we don't have to worry about it anymore," says junior on the team, Kinzee Shull.
"I'm looking forward to the whole experience. This is my first year showing so to get to go to nationals is a really big deal," explains Cana Fitzgerald, freshman on the team.
Kayla says, "The mental aspect of not making it a bigger deal than it is and treating it like any other horse show, and just going and riding and enjoying it."
The team leaves this week for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and will compete May 1st through the 4th. There will be a live stream on the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association website, and on Gobuffsgo.com.
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