Frogs hot to trot atop horses

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    The newest Horned Frog team will make its debut Saturday.After three weeks of practice and conditioning, the varsity women’s equestrian team will travel to Waco for a head-to-head competition against Baylor, its first competition as a Division 1-A team, said head coach Gary Reynolds.

    “This is the most hard-working group of women athletes I’ve ever seen,” Reynolds said. “I would’ve bet half this team wouldn’t have been here the second week after what we did to them the first week at practice.”

    While the team comprises experienced riders, including two world champions, this is the first time most of them have competed in a varsity equestrian format, Reynolds said.

    Allie Royder, a freshman rider from Columbus, Ohio, said working as a team is the biggest difference between the varsity equestrian format and competitions she has previously participated in.

    “I’m used to setting goals personally,” Royder said. “Now we have to set goals as a team.”

    Since the horses ridden at competitions belong to the host school, one of the team’s goals is to make each horse, regardless of its particular ability, look the best it can in each event, she said.

    “There’s a tremendous home field advantage,” Reynolds said. “But it’s kind of negated because once you get out there on the horse it’s about who can get it done.”

    Varsity equestrian competitions are made up of four events. In a head-to-head competition there are four riders from each school in each of the four events. Riders are judged on their skill and how they look on the horse.

    A team needs at least 12 different riders, but up to 16 can compete, Reynolds said.

    “My expectation is that we will have the opportunity to evaluate the young talent that we have and get some experience in this format,” Reynolds said.

    The Baylor equestrian team is in its second full season. This weekend’s game will be the first event held in its new facility, which was built after a tornado destroyed the farm used by the equestrian program last spring, Reynolds said.

    Motivating each other will play a big role Saturday, said Royder, who will compete in the reigning and western horsemanship events.

    “The entire process is a new experience,” Royder said.