For most prospective students, Oswego State is known for two things; nationally ranked men’s hockey and snow. The forty members of the Oswego State Equestrian Team are looking to add one more to the list; horseback riding. What many students of our university do not even know is that Oswego State has a competitive riding team, participating in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) in both the English and Western disciplines. And they are a force to be reckoned with.
This past weekend, a few of the members of the team boarded an RV and drove down to Murfreesboro, TN where the IHSA National Championship horseshow was hosted by Middle Tennessee State University.
Team member Jennifer Nagel, a sophomore marketing major, was set to compete in the American Quarter Horse Association sponsored High Point Rider event. This consisted of her riding in two phases, Open Horsemanship and Open Reining. Both classes are judged and scored on different days and are then compiled to get a final score. Competing against the top 22 riders from colleges all over the nation, it came to a neck and neck competition between Nagel and last year’s defending High Point Rider champion, Kaitlyn Morehead, from the University of Findlay in Ohio. Nagel proved to be a champion and rode into first place, taking the title from Findlay, who has held that title for the last four years. This is Oswego State’s first National title in the past 24 years.
Nagel has been training hard all year to earn this title, as well as the rest of the team. To get the opportunity to compete at the National level, riders have to compete during the school year to earn points in their division to qualify for Regionals, then on to Semi-finals, and finally on to Nationals. This year’s western team qualified seven riders to go on to Regionals; freshman Jessica Hosie, sophomores Jennifer Nagel, Michael Donnellan, and Meghan Milewski, juniors Valentina Capone and Diana Gonzalez, and senior Tracy Nichols. Nagel, Capone, Gonzalez, and Hosie all moved on to compete in Canyon, Texas at West Texas A&M University for the IHSA Semi-final competition. From the English team, sophomore Gretchan Dietrich qualified for the Regional competition.
Throughout the year, the team has earned other honors; the western team has earned a High Point Team honor and two Reserve High Point Team honors. The western team has also had 25 individual wins throughout the whole season. The English team has also earned four individual wins.
What makes each of these wins exceptional is the caliber of schools that Oswego State competes against; schools like Cazenovia College, Alfred University, and St. Lawrence University are varsity sport teams and have equestrian programs within their school. University of Findlay, the school that Nagel beat out, is considered to have the best equestrian program in the nation. The fact that a smaller state school club sport with no equestrian program is keeping up with, and even surpassing, the competition is a very telling fact.
The team is coached by Dan and Jill Bergstresser of JD Performance Horses in Oswego. Both coaches have an immense passion for the sport as well as a passion for seeing their team succeed, both in the show pen and on their riding skills overall. The National title that Nagel has earned is not only a source of immense pride for them to see one of their riders succeed, but is a testament to their teaching ability. The Bergstresser’s both put in immeasurable amounts of time and effort into Oswego State’s team, committing the time it takes to give lessons to all of the members, as well as traveling many weekends around the state to compete against other colleges.
Oswego States’s Equestrian Team does not come with prerequisites of having years of riding experience or owning your own horse, the Bergstresser’s welcome riders with little or no experience to the team.
The Bergstresser’s and all members of the team would like to thank the Student Association for continually supporting the team and allowing them to represent Oswego State in the IHSA. This win has fueled the members of the team to strive for more members to compete in the national show. The Bergstresser’s have already set their sights on working hard to qualify the whole team to compete next spring at the national show, which will be hosted by Morehead University in Lexington, Ky.