Team Isn't Saddled With High Profile West Chester University's Equestrian Club Is Doing Big Things. Yet Few Even Know It Exists.

Posted: April 18, 1994

The West Chester University equestrian team doesn't have the profile of the football, baseball and basketball teams, or even the track, soccer, lacrosse and gymnastics teams. The fact is, most people don't even know the university has an equestrian team.

The team doesn't even come under the jurisdiction of the university's athletic department, but rather the student government association and its recreational services. There's little mention of the team in university publications, and it may be one of the best-kept secrets on the campus.

"We're considered an organization, not an athletic team," said Annette Longenecker, a junior elementary education major who serves as team captain.

But there is nothing recreational about the rigors that the eight young women who ride regularly put themselves through just to keep the team competing. And there's plenty of competition.

"We had five shows in the fall and four shows this spring, one of which we hosted," said Longenecker.

The team competes in Region 2, Zone 3 of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, facing teams from eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware.

"There are 12 schools in our region - about 100 riders," Longenecker said. "The University of Delaware has a large team. So does Bucks County Community College." Other teams in the region include Delaware Valley, Rutgers, Rider, Princeton, Moravian, Penn, Kutztown, Lehigh and Cedar Crest.

"La Salle and Lafayette have had teams in the past, but did not compete this year," Longenecker said.

Delaware Valley in Doylestown won the region's high point championship this year. West Chester finished seventh. "That's pretty good for a small team," said Jessica Forth, another member of the team.

"We don't have a full team," said Longenecker, pointing out that West Chester did not have enough riders to enter all of the events at a show. The events include flat riding and fence-jumping competition for an open class, intermediate class and novice class. There are also walk-trot-canter and walk- trot events. Riders must accumulate so many points in competition to move up in class.

Although shows for team competition are finished for this year, Forth, a sophomore from Harleysville, and two other members of the West Chester team, senior Sonia Schofield of Downingtown and freshman Carrie Schwartz of Ringland, N.J., qualified for the regional championships that were held April 2 in Horsham, Montgomery County. Schofield qualified in the open-fences class, where she finished fourth. Schwartz and Forth both qualified for intermediate flat and made it to zone competition, which was held April 10 in Pittsburgh. Schwartz finished first in the flat and fifth over fences at the regionals and fourth in the flat at zones. Forth was second in flat and sixth over fences at regionals. By later finishing second in flat at zones she earned a trip to the national competition April 30 and May 1 in Austin, Texas.

"I like the team competition," said Schwartz, who has been riding for about 11 of her 19 years. "It's different from the other competitions that I enter. It's also different at practice. We don't get to practice on the same horse, so it's a new experience each time out. It makes you concentrate a little harder."

"It's fun to cheer for your teammates," said Forth, 19, who has been riding since she was 8. "We definitely do some yelling on the sideline. I'm good at that. I have a loud voice." The WCU riders' horses come from the stables of coach John Muldoon, who operates Reinbow's End riding school in Glenmoore. Muldoon, who has been coaching the team for two years, has about 30 horses - some his own, others whose owners rent his stables. He offers horse boarders a break on their rent if they allow team members to use their horses.

"The team did a fabulous job this year," Muldoon said. "We had a lot of talent, and a good many of them are returning next year. My first year we had a lot of graduates."

Muldoon tries to group several of the team members together for lessons, but that's not always possible. Members have to work their practices around their class schedules.

"They have to be a team all the way around," said Muldoon, "from getting together for practices to running a horse show, which they do to raise money for the team."

The team receives funds from the student government association, but the money it raises also helps to send riders to regional zone and national competitions.

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