English show team makes Illini Equestrian history

By Emma McGowan

For most people, spring break is a time to kick back, relax and not worry about too much. But for the Illini Equestrians’ English show team, spring break brought on a different mindset. The team couldn’t take a break, as it was competing at Zone Championships, a qualifier for nationals, on March 29 at Mandt’s Equestrian Center in Verona, Wisconsin. Competing in regionals was a first for the Illini Equestrians.

“Break wasn’t very relaxing,” senior Kelsey Concklin said, “I rode two times a day, every day.”

In order to qualify for Zone Championships, either as an individual or as a team, an individual must place first or second in an event or win regionals as a team, respectively. This marks the first time in the club’s history that the English show team won its regional, making it the team’s first appearance at the Zone Championships. Ten members of the club competed on at Zone Championships. Three Illini competed as individuals, four just as part of the team and three qualified for both the individual and team competitions.

In order to level the playing field, competitors pick a number out of a hat that is assigned to a specific horse. Then they ride that horse for a certain event, picking out a new number for each event. 

Concklin recognizes that isn’t exactly ideal. 

“It’s difficult to make yourself look good while trying to understand the horse,” Concklin said, “But it does level the playing field. Adapting yourself to the animal is one of the best things a rider can do. It really does show who the top competitors are.”

At the end of the day, the team placed fourth out of five teams. But having never competed there before, the team was happy to have made it this far, according to Concklin.

While the team didn’t place high enough to move on to Nationals — where 16 teams will compete from April 30–May 5 in Springfield, Massachusetts — Concklin qualified in the Open Flat and will be moving on to Nationals as an individual. She intends to prepare by balancing her time and continuously riding various horses in order to keep up her leg strength and work on being able to adapt to each new horse.

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