The No. 7 Gamecocks equestrian team beat the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs in front of a packed crowd at One Wood Farm during the team's last meet of its strong 2022 season.
“I feel like we have been improving the whole semester, and it was very rewarding to have this last meet,” head coach Boo Major said. “It's great to end our fall segment with a win against a very good SEC opponent, and I think that will help carry us through towards the championship season.”
Early points for UGA from the flat and horsemanship events forced the Gamecocks to play catchup throughout the meet. Freshman Mary Hunter Millet and senior Madeline Schaefer each scored points for the Gamecocks in flat, but it wasn't enough to beat the Bulldogs, who scored three points in the event.
Schaefer, who competes in both fences and flat for South Carolina, had already earned six points for the Gamecocks this season, including one MOP (Most Outstanding Player) honor against Auburn.
“Maddie has come a long way," Major said. "She came to us very talented anyway, but I think she is learning how to adapt to different situations. Being a senior, being this is her last meet of the fall, and she has really been on a roll for the last few weeks.
The flat event is competed in an 20 x 40 meter arena where riders perform a pattern and are judged on their performance, grace and poise. Six seniors, who combined to score four points against Georgia, lead the Gamecocks.
Sophomore Tierney Horton and freshman Alyssa Jipping scored points in horsemanship for the Gamecocks, but they were still outpaced by the strong Bulldog team as South Carolina fell 3-2 in the horsemanship event to close the first half.
In horsemanship, the rider performs a set of maneuvers and talents in a pattern and is judged based off the smoothness of their performance.
In the second half, the Bulldogs continued to control the ring, winning the fences event 3-2 and applying must-win pressure to South Carolina going into the last event.
Schaefer scored her second point of the match in fences, defeating her competition 84-78 and earning the MOP honor.
Senior captain Jordan Allen also scored a point for South Carolina in the fence event. Fences involves riders guiding their horses through jumps and a pattern in an arena and are judged based on accuracy.
Looking to gain momentum for a win in the last event, the Gamecocks scored 4 points and swept UGA in reining to secure the home victory.
Sophomore newcomer Haley Turner, senior Mary Margret Coats and sophomore Chloe VanStone all scored big for the Gamecocks in the category. VanStone also earned a MOP for her reining score of 71.5.
Reining is judged based on changes in speed and style, accuracy, turns and stops. In a must-win moment with the score tied 9-9, junior Emma Lane secured her point and gave the Gamecocks the edge needed to win.
“Emma is one of our best reiners, so it is being cautiously confident because we know that she can put in a winning ride,” Major said. “If you were going to put anybody in that situation of 'you gotta win or we're gonna lose,' it would be her, I would put her in any day.”
The Gamecocks ended the fall 2022 season 5-2 and will begin play in the spring on Jan. 27 with the Garnet and Black scrimmage.