In June of 2001, Georgia took a bold step forward in the development of its athletics program when Equestrian was added as the 21st varsity intercollegiate sport. In the 10 years since, the Bulldogs' program has become a national leader, both in the performance and in the movement, toward sponsorship by the NCAA.
Georgia Equestrian History
Bulldogs' Path to Another Championship
Georgia’s equestrian program has been the epitome of success since its inception in 2001. Since the program started, the Bulldogs have reached unprecedented heights, including six national titles, four reserve national titles and six Southern Equestrian Championships.
Georgia started with trailblazing success, winning national titles in both of the program's first two years on the varsity level. In 2002-03, the Bulldogs won their first varsity team to the national crown at the Varsity Equestrian National Championship in College Station, Texas.
The Georgia equestrian team capped its second year of competition in grand style successfully defending its overall title at the sport’s national championship meet. Coach Meghan Boenig’s team trailed SEC rival Auburn by 14 points after the first day of riding. The Bulldogs, however, took control of the meet on the final day winning four of the seven flights and placing second in two others.
Georgia posted its first undefeated regular season in 2004-05, going 11-0 overall. Georgia’s first loss of the season came at the Varsity Equestrian National Championships where it fell to South Carolina 60-51. After only scoring 16 points on day one, Georgia found itself in sixth place. The Bulldogs would later bounce back with three first-place finishes to claim the reserve title.
In 2005-06, the Bulldogs claimed their second-straight Southern Equestrian Championship, defeating South Carolina 1351-1322.5. The Bulldogs entered the VENC as the No. 1 seed, but ultimately finished fourth.
The 2006-07 team enjoyed a strong regular season finishing with a 9-2 record including an unblemished mark of 6-0 at home. Georgia swept the 2006 Varsity Equestrian National Champion Auburn Tigers and picked up a win against the would-be 2007 Champion South Carolina Gamecocks.
Georgia returned to the winners circle during the 2007-08 season, winning its third national title in just six years of existence. The season also started a string of three-straight national titles for the Bulldogs. Georgia riders claimed their first national crown since 2004 without finishing first in either riding discipline. Georgia’s Western squad narrowly missed a victory when it dropped a tie-breaker to Texas Christian. The two teams had ridden to a 4-4 draw before the Horned Frogs outpointed Georgia in the sum of raw scores, 1027-1026. Still, Georgia’s strong finish in both disciplines allowed the Bulldogs to claim a team title with surprising ease. Their total of 49 points surpassed runner-up Texas A&M, which totaled 38, allowed Georgia to take home the title. That year, s new feature of the VENC meet were the competitions for individual titles in the four riding events. Georgia sophomore Sarah Locker claimed the title in Western Reining. Teammates Haylie Jayne in Hunt Seat Equitation on the Flat and Laura Upton in Western Horsemanship won Reserve status as runners-up in their competitions.
Georgia’s success continued into the 2008-09 season, as the Bulldogs took home the program’s fourth national title and second in as many years. 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 EQ National Championships in Waco, Texas. 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 needed clutch points from Emma Lipman and Kacy Jenkins in Fences to stave off elimination by South Carolina in the semifinals. For the second straight year, Georgia brought home one of the four individual national championships that were introduced to the sport in 2008. Jayne won the Equitation over Fences crown in a match with her teammate and good friend, Cowperthwait.
The 2009-10 Bulldog squad needed two kinds of tie-breakers to settle it, but they prevailed over Texas A&M to capture their third-straight overall crown at the Varsity National Championships in Waco, Texas on April 17. The 2010 championship is Georgia’s fifth in eight years and third in succession at the Heart ‘O Texas Fair Complex. When both Hunt Seat and Western team competitions had played out, both Georgia and Texas A&M had won titles, Georgia the former and A&M the latter. That put them in a first-place tie in the overall standings with 51 points, necessitating the first rideoff in the history of this event. The rideoff consisted of four head-to-head dual matches, one per event. Georgia essentially sealed its victory in the opening event, when Michelle Morris won a 174-144 decision over A&M's Elizabeth Solch in Equitation on the Flat. The Bulldogs also got a winning ride from Kacy Jenkins in the Fences event while Texas A&M won both Western events. Each team’s raw scores were tallied once Georgia and Texas A&M split the four events. The margin of Morris’ ride, however, provided the necessary cushion for Georgia to outlast the Aggies by the final tally of 603.5 to 579. It was also a banner day for a pair of Georgia sophomores. Morris and Lipman became the third and fourth Bulldogs ever to win individual national championships.
During the 2010-11 campaign, the Bulldogs again were competing for a championship, when they took on Southeastern Conference foe Auburn in the finals of the VENC National Championship. Georgia came away with its second Reserve Championship, falling 51-49 to the Tigers. The Bulldogs defeated Auburn in the Western Division to finish third overall in the discipline, but Auburn edged Georgia on the Hunt Seat side.
The 2011-12 equestrian team finished the regular season with a record of 11-2, a 10-meet win streak, a No. 1 ranking and its second Reserve National Championship. Along the way, the Bulldogs defeated nine ranked teams, including a season-sweep of Auburn and South Carolina. The Bulldogs finished second at the Southern Equestrian Championship before claiming its third Reserve Championship and second in as many years.
The 2012-13 season was a historic one, as the Southeastern Conference sponsored the sport for the first time. The Bulldogs went 3-3 in SEC play. That season, the team finished the season with a 9-5 dual-meet record and its third-straight Reserve National Championship. The Bulldogs also led the Southeastern Conference with 11 all-conference selections and had two riders earn SEC Rider of the Year honors. She also coached four riders to five NCEA First Team All-American honors and had 13 riders land a spot on an NCEA Academic Team and another 21 earn a place on the NCEA Academic Honor Roll.
During the 2013-14 season, Georgia earned the program's sixth National Championship. After finishing the regular season with a 9-3 dual-meet record, the Georgia equestrian team earned a second-place finish at the Southeastern Conference Championship. Under Boenig, seven riders were named to the All-SEC teams, two freshman selected to the SEC All-Freshman team and two riders were named as the SEC Riders of the Year. Under her guidance, six riders landed seven spots on NCEA All-American teams, while 12 earned a place as NCEA Academic All-Americans and another 19 were named to the NCEA Academic Honor Roll. Boenig also saw two riders crowned as the Most Valuable Players of the NCEA Championship, as well as three riders named to the NCEA All-Championship team.
In addition to the success in the ring, Georgia has been successful outside of it. Under Boenig’s guidance, the Bulldogs have had had 33 riders named to an NCEA Academic Team, 39 earn a spot on the NCEA Academic Honor Roll and 373 named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll. Riders Maria Salazar and Morgan Justiss were also named Joel Eaves Scholar Athletes, given to the male and female student-athlete with the highest overall GPA entering the fall semester of their senior year. Georgia was also the recipient of the Bulldog Cup in both 2013 and 2014. The Bulldog Cup is awarded annually and recognizes the team that excels academically, supports their peers in athletic competition, and consistently serves the community. The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee initiated the award in 2010. Additionally, Georgia received the 2014 SEC Sportsmanship Award