St. Andrew’s equestrian team is vying for the title of Inter-School Horse Show Series Champion at Sunday’s invitational. Thanks to strong individual performances throughout the season, a commitment to attentive horse care, and consistent encouragement reinforced by coaches and teammates, the top prize is within reach.
The team has earned the No. 1 spot – Champion – or the No. 2 spot – Reserve Champion – at each show so far this season, thanks to the culmination of points earned by all riders. Standout performances that resulted in Equitation Medals or individual Champion or Reserve Champion titles were contributed by Upper School riders Natalie Manos ’23, Kate Schneider ’23, Rhian Williams ’25, Alex Houck '25, and Ella Poffenroth '25, and as well as Middle School riders Kate Bickenbach ‘28, Noa Rosenthal ‘28, and Molly Hallagan ‘29.
Even St. Andrew’s riders who didn’t earn medals or individual titles performed well enough to contribute to the team’s point total, and their merit earned every team member an invitation to Sunday’s event. Assistant Coach and Team Manager Camille Bowe said it’s a huge honor to have every team member invited to the Invitational.
“Each of our riders amassed above the threshold they need individually to be invited,” Bowe said. “It means we excelled this season, and we really did.”
“It’s definitely a big deal. It’s cool we all got in there, so we’re going to do our best,” said Immy Bise ‘29, who rides at the Future Intermediate Level for the JV Team.
This success is even more commendable knowing the challenges of participating in horse shows. Members of the equestrian team practice after school multiple days per week at their barns. In addition to riding horses – ones they own or ones they learn with – they also spend time caring for horses, including brushing them, bathing them, and tacking them up.
On competition day, however, riders are challenged to apply all the skills they learn in practice by riding with a show horse, which is randomly selected for them and comes with its own personality traits and quirks.
“You can’t just get on a horse and expect it to be perfect. You need to get to know them and develop a partnership,” said Chloe Stark ’26, who rides at the Intermediate level for the Varsity team. “They show me what I need to do, and I let them see me, too.”
Alice Clark ’28, who rides at the Maiden level for the JV team, said reading body language is one of the most important skills she has learned as an equestrian, and one that has also served her as she navigates the social dynamics of Middle School.
“You need to be able to be on the slowest horse or the fastest horse, otherwise you’ll get scared, and the horse will know,” Clark said. “Socially, you need to read body language before you go and talk to someone, so that you can be completely present in your conversation.”
Bowe said she is impressed by how team members lift each other up when they’ve had a disappointing event or contended with a difficult horse. Judges from the Series have noticed, too: Schneider and Corey Bailey ’24 both got shout-outs this year for their sportsmanship.
“If someone feels like they didn’t ride their best, you can see it on their face. Other teammates are stepping up and encouraging each other,” Bowe said. “It’s about process over product.”
“Every single person on the St. Andrew’s team is very supportive, and even if you’re riding terribly, they’ll still cheer you on,” Clark said.
For Bise, being on a team with Upper School students while she's in Middle School has helped her expand her community at St. Andrew’s.
“You definitely meet some new people and you can see them in the hallways at school. It’s like getting new friends,” Bise said.
Members of the St. Andrew’s community are invited to cheer on the team at the invitational this weekend. The event starts at 9 a.m. March 12 and takes place at NFF Stables in Poolesville. There will be food at the team’s red-and-white tailgate tent; spectators are urged to be cautious around the horses and courteous and respectful of riders competing in the ring.