The Penn State equestrian team took home the Holiday Tournament of Champions title for the first time in team history on Saturday at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio.
Penn State placed first in five of eight events, beating out 21 nationally ranked equestrian teams from across the East Coast for the team title.
Penn State has competed in the Holiday Tournament of Champions for the last 15 years, but was never able to bring home the team title.
“The team is very fortunate to have a large student body to draw from. They have always been a large and talented team,” Penn State coach Malinda Grice said. “The kids that I took to this show had the advantage of having the experience to compete in the [Intercollegiate Horse Show Association] and they have the talent to compete in this level.”
Brendan Weiss (junior - bio medical engineering), president of the Penn State equestrian team, said the team is stocked with riders with both talent and work ethic that allows the team to compete at its best.
The large team, made up of 84 members, welcomed back 46 returning riders, with 38 new members competing at the collegiate level for the first time.
New riders have to adjust to collegiate equestrian regulations that state that riders are provided competition horses at the host site in order to properly measure the riders’ ability to control their animal.
“Most riders on our team have riding experience, but it is definitely a change when you get to college and you have to get back to the fundamentals of your riding,” Weiss said.
Weiss said returning riders have a responsibility to help the new members get back to the basics, but Grice has the insight to get riders to perform at their best.
“I think it is just like learning anything; you have to start with the basics,” Grice said. “I can see a rider who is trying to perform at a higher level and struggling, because they have these gaps in fundamentals.
“I would say that our attention to form a strong position when riding really plays a big role in success in horse shows. Taking students to shows like this, and exposing them to pressure in a horse show helps them prepare.”
Weiss helped lead the Penn State equestrian team to victory yesterday, placing first and second in two individual events, and taking first place in the Tournament of Champions medal event.
“It is an incredible feeling to be able to win as a team and individually. I have competed in [Tournament of Champions] medal four times and I have never won,” Weiss said. “It was a really cool experience to win as a team. Everyone works really hard, and it was a great feeling for all of that hard work to pay off in the end.”
Penn State will compete in the second show of the Tournament of Champion series in January at the Tournament of Champions show in Chatham, Va.. The points collected by the eight Penn State riders this weekend will be added to the points awarded to the team in January; the school with the most points wins the series.