Reserve Champion Ella Villeneuve
The Midcoast Maine Equestrian Team recently competed at the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Zone 1 semifinals. Nine middle school riders from grades six through nine qualified and competed in the semifinals, held in Westford, Mass.
Ella Villeneuve finished second out of 18 in her division to move on to the Zone 1 finals. The middle school riding team accumulated 20 points in competitions throughout the season, which runs from October to February, to qualify for the zone semifinals. The high school team scored 17 points to narrowly miss qualifying.
Individual riders could also qualify by accumulating 15 points in regional competitions The following four high school girls (all freshmen) qualified in at least one division: Marina Godin, of Thomaston, Clara Mugnai, of Alna, Brinley Harrison, of South Bristol, and Lindsey Gordon, of Wiscasset.
Middle school girls qualifying to ride as individuals as well as for the team were Alexandria Fabiano, of Edgecomb, Ella Villeneuve, of Alna, Isabella Fabiano, of Edgecomb, Brooke Seiders, of South Bristol, and Emma Wriggins, of Nobleboro.
Zone semifinals bring together competitors from two regions of Zone 1, representing over 20 teams from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. The top individual riders in seven high school divisions and five middle school divisions vie for the chance to move on to the Zone 1 finals, to be held in Mt. Holyoke March 28 and 29.
This year, the divisions ranged in size from eight to 20 riders and the top two qualified for zone finals. In the team competition, a rider in each division earns points toward the team total and the top two teams move on to zones.
In Interscholastic Equestrian Association competition, riders compete on horses they have never ridden before with little to no practice.
In most cases, they mount the horse and are led into the ring, where they must ride their best while “figuring out” the horse they have been given. They are judged on their ability to ride the horse they have drawn, which can be quite challenging.
Each competing team is required to supply horses for the competition and the horses vary greatly in size, training, ability, and demeanor (although all must be deemed safe by the show steward prior to the show).
“Despite a long, cold weekend of competition (back-to-back 12- hour days in unheated barns), all of our girls showed excellent sportsmanship and team spirit. Our horses were among the best behaved and most coveted at the competition and we are very proud of all of our competitors, both two-and four-legged,” Kristen Mugnai said.
The team finished fourth overall. “We would like to congratulate Ella Villeneuve for finishing second out of 18 in her division to move on to Zone 1 finals, quite an accomplishment for a sixth-grader in her first year on the team. Several other riders finished third, just missing the cut.
The team is now finished competing until the fall, although we will all be cheering for Ella next weekend,” Mugnai said.