Riders prepare for title defense

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    When the equestrian team’s season begins Friday, there will be a tough task at hand – defending a national championship.

    However, head coach Gary Reynolds likes his team’s chances.

    “We’re very fortunate to have a strong team with depth this year,” Reynolds said.

    The team will travel to Lubbock for its first action of the season in a scrimmage with Texas Tech University and West Texas A&M University.

    This season’s team features proven veterans like seniors Chloe Baker and team captain Carrie von Uhlit, who both participate in the Western events.

    Then there’s the young talent. Reynolds noted sophomore Western rider Kelsey Huffman, who will be in her first year participating, as a rider to watch for this year.

    The depth chart continues with talented sophomores Tassie Munroe and Jessica Hagen, who participate in the English riding events, and promising freshman recruits like Taylor Frederick, who Reynolds said could have a strong role down the road.

    Even though the Western team was hit hard by graduation, Reynolds said he feels confident the team’s newcomers will grasp the opportunity.

    “(The squad) graduated two great riders off our Western team, but we gained several that are very accomplished,” he said.

    Reynolds said he thinks his English (or hunt seat) team is more seasoned than last year.

    “There were lots of freshmen last year because it was a relatively new program, but we look to be very competitive this year,” he said.

    As for the team’s goals for the season, Reynolds is sticking to the basics: good riding.

    “The thing that won the (Western team) national championship was riding correctly all the time,” Reynolds said. “We don’t want to get too many penalties.”

    Solid riding will be key for the Horned Frogs this season, as their schedule features tough national competition like the University of South Carolina on Oct. 24 and the University of Georgia on Nov. 22, which TCU beat for the national championship last year. Both of these matches will take place at home.

    But the match Reynolds said may be most important will take place Nov. 15, when the Horned Frogs travel to College Station to play Texas A&M University, the team’s rival.

    “(Texas A&M) will be our biggest game of the fall,” he said. “They’re well-coached and they’re a great rival.”

    Reynolds said he also thinks students would enjoy the games, inviting students to cheer the team on as they face Georgia and South Carolina. All home matches are in Mansfield at Fieldstone Park, located at 7528 Dick Price Road.