Two riders with the Midcoast Maine Equestrian Team have qualified for the national finals, to be held in Lexington, Ky. April 20-24.
Marina Godin, of Spruce Head, and Claire Lane, of Durham, qualified for nationals at the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Zone 1 Regionals held at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. They competed in the “over fences” division, where each rider draws a horse at random and competes over a course of six to eight jumps.
The Midcoast Maine Equestrian Team practices at Stonewall Stables in Nobleboro, under coach Virginia Shaw.
Godin and Lane are excited to compete in their first national competition.
“This means they are in the top 20 riders in the country in their division,” assistant coach Kristen Mugnai said.
Isabella Fabiano, of South Bristol, also competed at the Zone 1 Regional finals in over fences, and Alexandria Fabiano, of South Bristol, and Ella Villeneuve, of Alna, competed at Regional 1 Zones in the “on the flat” division. Riders in “on the flat” competition also draw horses at random, before competing in walk, trot, and canter.
Both Godin and Lane own horses and board them at Stonewall Stables. Godin will compete at nationals in the varsity open class and Lane in the intermediate (middle school) cross rails.
Godin started taking weekly horseback-riding lessons when she was 4 years old. “I started adding more lessons, then moved over here and got my first horse,” Godin said.
Lane has a similar story. She started riding at age 5. “I moved to Stonewall and Virginia (Shaw) taught me a lot about jumping and riding. I got my first horse with Virginia,” Lane said.
For both girls, it is their first trip to nationals. Godin has qualified for zones three times and Lane once.
To qualify for regionals, riders must compete in five Interscholastic Equestrian Association shows a year and accumulate 18 points. A first-place finish is 7 points, second place 5, third place 4, fourth place 3, fifth place 2, and sixth place 1.
To qualify for zones, riders must place in the top two in the varsity open division and the top three in the intermediate division at regionals. Riders must place in the top three at zones to qualify for nationals.
The varsity open division is the most advanced group for high school-age kids. “It is the highest you can go,” Godin said. Competitors negotiate a course with eight jumps at a height of 2 feet 6 inches. The events are not timed, but riders instead are scored on how they look and how they ride the course. “They look at how you hold your upper body and how still and quiet your legs are. They look at how you present the horse you are given and how you execute the course,” Godin said.
Lane, riding in the intermediate level, is graded on the same criteria, but the jumps are at 18 inches. “The only difference is, my group is more advanced. We have been showing longer. Mine is high school, (Lane’s) is middle school,” Godin said.
For both, it is a 45-minute commute to Stonewall Stables.
Regarding how they ended up at Stonewall Stables, Godin said, “It’s the best.” Lane said, of coach Virginia Shaw, “she goes to a lot of out-of-state shows and gets us where we need to be.”
Godin, who has been riding at Stonewall Stables for six years, said she learned of Shaw from her former trainer, Susan Shepherd. “She recommended her to me because I wanted to do more advanced riding. I started here with summer camps.”
Lane has been at Stonewall Stables for nine years and started when the stable she was riding at closed. “My mom looked at barns and came across Stonewall,” she said.
“Virginia was a very good competitor herself. She showed all the big horse shows. She gives very good advice” and helps prepare us for the big shows,” Godin said.
“We always do pretty well, even though we are up here in Maine,” Lane said.
“She really helps you out. You don’t just ride, you learn to care for the horse, how to act around horses and at shows,” Godin said.
“She teaches horsemanship – how to brush the horse, tack up, muck a stall, and what to feed a horse,” Lane said.
The Midcoast Maine Equestrian Team out of Stonewall Stables competes in five Interscholastic Equestrian Association shows a season and about a dozen shows altogether, not counting finals.