South Carolina's young riders still adjusting
The South Carolina equestrian team knew exactly what it was getting itself into when the 2014-15 schedule was released.
Two meets into a fall slate that exclusively features top-10 opponents, the Gamecocks sit at 0-2 after a tight home loss to Georgia last weekend. Still, head coach Boo Major insists her team has not been caught by surprise.
“We knew this was going to be a tough year,” she said. “We have way more road games than we do home meets, and that’s very difficult. We have to do the best we can with what we’ve been dealt for this year.”
Next on South Carolina’s slate is a road test against No. 3 Auburn. With no expected lopsided meets on the Gamecocks’ schedule, the team must execute sooner rather than later.
Each of South Carolina’s first two losses was by two points and each coming down to the last few riders. Major said the close losses weren't because of a lack of talent; rather, it was “a few glitches here and there” down the stretch.
Senior Adele Norton, who won in equitation on the flat in the home opener, is steadily helping catch younger riders — including twelve freshmen — up to speed.
“We are a new team now,” Norton said. “Our dynamic is coming together. I really do think that we’re feeling comfortable with each other. We’re working as a team.”
The Falls Church, Virginia, native also said that increasing experience and maintaining a steady confidence could cure the glitches that Major mentioned for the younger riders.
The coach also noted that the main disadvantage that comes from competing mainly on the road is the uncertainty that comes with the particular horse that each rider is working with. With four of the Gamecocks’ six fall meets on the road, it is particularly difficult for incoming riders to reach a high comfort level on horseback.
“The main thing is not to get down on the fact that we have had some tough losses,” Major said, "and just to try to keep plugging and see if we can get in the win column.”
A key factor South Carolina does have going for it is a positive attitude when handed adversity, which has Norton impressed.
She went as far to say the attitude on this team is even better than in years past, which is quite the compliment in comparison to a team that finished as the national runner-up in the spring.
“I didn’t see anyone too upset with themselves or not accountable for their mistakes,” Norton said. “Even the younger riders kept their heads up. Everyone was focused on their role, their job, what they had to do in order to win. I think that is going to serve us well in the coming meets.”
More than anything, Norton has embraced the increased role she has assumed in her final season in the garnet and black. She's one of the thermometers of the team, making it easy to see where the team’s general cool, calm and collected nature comes from.
And she's is determined to leave the program in as well-off, if not better, as when she joined the team over three years ago.
“I want to make sure that the freshmen and the other underclassmen are able to continue our success when I leave,” Norton said. “If we share with them the best of what we’ve taken from our senior classes, then they’ll be able to thrive in the coming years. I just want to give back to it all that it has given to me.”