With a resounding win in the Hunt Seat discipline and a fourth-place finish in Western, Georgia concluded the 2008-09 season by taking home its second straight overall title at the Varsity Equestrian National Championships in Waco, Texas.
The Bulldogs totaled 51 points in the overall standings, nine better than runner-up Texas A&M.
“This is a truly wonderful feeling, a tremendous accomplishment by our team,” said Georgia coach Meghan Boenig, who has now led the program to four national championships in just seven years. “One of our goals all along was to repeat our national title. The entire weekend was just the affirmation of a great season. Our riders came through with a tremendous effort.”
Both Haylie Jayne and Kelley Cowperthwait were stalwarts in Georgia’s advance to the Hunt Seat championship. They led the Bulldogs to a 7-1 victory over Auburn, each with a winning ride in Equitation over Fences and Jayne also pointing in the Flat competition. Just over 12 hours before, however, the Bulldogs stood at the threshold of elimination in a semifinal match with South Carolina. Two big Fences wins and a 3-2 victory.
Georgia knew of its overall team championship well before the Hunters rode to their title in the afternoon. By mid-day, Texas A&M - which needed a perfect day, combined with a pair of Georgia losses, to topple the Bulldogs - had already dropped its fifth-place duel with Oklahoma State in the Hunt Seat bracket. The Aggies’ Western championship had little bearing on the final overall standings.
Jayne Takes Individual Title
For the second straight year, Georgia brought home one of the four individual national championships that were introduced to the sport in 2008. This year, junior Haylie Jayne won the Equitation over Fences crown in a match with her teammate and good friend, Kelley Cowperthwait. It marked the first time in 24 years that two UGA student-athletes dueled for an individual national title.
Sarah Locker won an individual championship in '08 in Western Reining.
EQ Program Has New Home
This has truly been a banner season for the Georgia Equestrian program. Perhaps just as important as its national title, the team also moved into a new permanent home facility.
Since the program’s inception six years ago, Georgia had trained and held meets at the Animal Science Arena on South Milledge Avenue. During January, however, the Bulldogs held their first practice at their new home: the 109-acre layout once known as High Point Farms in Bishop, Ga., approximately 12 miles from campus. The UGA Athletic Association purchased the facility last December, and the Georgia riders began shifting their presence from one place to another thereafter. Their inaugural competition in Bishop was the 12-7 victory over SEC rival Auburn on Feb. 28.
Since 1993, High Point Farm had served the Athens-area equine community with boarding and training facilities. Georgia already plans to add an outdoor competition arena, as well as student-athlete locker room facilities.
“We are just really, really pleased with the commitment by the Athletic Association to provide this new facility for our program,” Boenig said. “It’s great to see and I know that I speak for everyone.”
Georgia Wins 5th Straight Southern Title
What was predicted as a razor-thin margin for any team turned into a rout at the seventh annual Southern EQ championships, held in April at Georgia’s new home facility. The host Bulldogs took home their fifth straight title at this event, first defeating South Carolina and then Auburn on consecutive days, and by identical 15-5 margins, to boot.
Through regular-season dual meets, the difference between these three teams appeared to be so close that a new seeding system had to be devised. As a result, Auburn won the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye, but in the end it hardly mattered.
In the Auburn match, the Bulldogs were led by their entire Western squad, which won nine of a possible 10 points. Senior Kelley Mundrick won her second straight MVP honor by posting a score of 153.5, the highest number of any Horsemanship rider and good enough for a 4.5-point victory over Auburn’s Jessica Jones. Lauren Love also picked up an MVP honor in Horsemanship, and other winners included Katelyn Van Allen, Dana Kennedy and Alicia Shrum.
Bulldog Riders Tops in Community Service
The Georgia program truly shines when it comes to community service. Bulldog riders performed nearly 350 hours of various tasks around the Athens community. Among the 2009 highlights included a visit to their new horse farm by a group of 20 Special Olympians from a program sponsored by the Clarke County School District.