Equestrian team sees largest freshman class

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Ariel Molinaro 

In the month since students arrived back on campus and the fall 2018 semester classes began, the Florida Southern athletic season took off at a running start. As men’s and women’s soccer kicked off a new season on the latest sport held addition to campus grounds, FSC’s second newest sport addition (added to the roster prior to eSports) begins their third consecutive full year of competition this fall. English Oaks Equestrian Center hosts the Florida Southern College Equestrian Team. 

This year, the sport welcomes one of the biggest groups of freshman commits to the team since their debut year back in 2016. Picking up where they left off last May, the members of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, have gotten back on the horse and started season conditioning with head coach Shannon Morrell over the course of the past few weeks. 

The equestrian team is putting Florida Southern College in the record books. Representing Zone Five, Region Five, the FSC team had four team members qualify for Regionals last year alone, with two upperclassmen, Emily Shoaff and Shona Whitfield advancing to the Zone Five Championships, just a handful of shows away from the National Championship. In July, Whitfield was given the honor of the 2018 FSC Equestrian Team MVP, coming after earning the title of Reserve High Point Rider at University of Florida IHSA Hunter Seat Show in March. 

Alongside Shoaff, Whitfield returns for her final season as a senior to co-captain this year’s ambitious young riders. 

“The potential and effort [to win] are there, we just have to bring everything we have and show them what we got . . . . I personally would like to see more of the team qualifying for regionals so I am able to share with them what an amazing opportunity it is to be able to represent not only FSC but also Zone 5, Region 5,” Whitfield said. 

Unlike traditional sports teams whose competitive games start as quickly as their respective seasons, show competitions for the equestrian team don’t start until autumn is in full swing. That doesn’t stop the team from saddling up and beginning the season with training in full swing. 

Under the mentorship of Morrell, riders take weekly lessons at the local stable, home of the FSC Equestrian Team. Here riders are preparing for the rst show of the academic year by learning how to position their bodies atop a saddle to direct their horse through a variety of events and obstacles. Riders must exhibit confidence, skill, and form in competitive shows, where contestants are randomly assigned a horse, provided by IHSA. Team members are given the opportunity to compete in jumping and hunting events, in which horses are taken through an obstacle course of hurdles and fences, or advanced walk, trot, and canter events. Competitions take place over a two-day event. 

The Florida Southern Equestrian team also offers a social membership. The membership allows students to learn more about horseback riding and “ …. [become] involved around the community helping out local horse rescues and volunteering at local shows,” says Whitfield are events in the planning stages for the team. 

The equestrian team invites fellow Mocs to come out and attend their closest show of the season at the University of Florida in Ocala, Oct. 21 and 22. 

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