Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Stanford vs. Cal: 2012 BIG RIDE!

While the athletes of the Stanford Equestrian Team begin their preseason training camp in just over two weeks, the excitement is building for the first-ever Big Ride to take place at the Stanford Red Barn this fall. As Stanford and UC Berkeley's football teams look to meet for the 114th Big Game on Saturday, October 20th, the equestrian teams will compete head-to-head for the first time the following day on Sunday, October 21st.

The format of the predominant intercollegiate equestrian league (the IHSA, comprised of ~400 competing teams, vs. the NCAA which has 13 competing teams) has all nine schools in IHSA's Zone 8, Region 1 competing against each other at all IHSA-sanctioned events. "Stanford's regular season shows are wonderful but they can last all day. We are very excited to bring the excitement of the short-format head-to-head competitions to the Big Ride," says Stanford head coach Vanessa Bartsch. "While the athletes on the Stanford and Berkeley teams are actually very friendly and supportive of each other, they are looking forward to having some fun with this friendly rivalry. Both teams will come excited to represent their schools and I know Diane [Diane Yeager, Cal's coach] is amazing and will have them well prepared."

The event will begin at 1pm and will be free and open to the public. The featured event will be the head-to-head jumping competition between Stanford and Cal's top riders. In addition, there will be a dressage portion, as well as participation from the next generation of collegiate riders: the Woodside and Red Barn Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) teams. Many of the 55 riders on the IEA teams have parents and siblings who are alumni of both Bay Area schools, and several students will be applying to one or both universities in the fall.

The goal of the Big Ride is to unite the larger Bay Area equestrian and athletic community while creating another format for Stanford and Berkeley fans to show their school spirit. Both Stanford and Berkeley's teams are completely student-funded, with no money received from either school's athletic department, so the teams hope that some attendees will purchase the special $50 VIP tickets for access to a food and wine tent, with a portion being a contribution to student equestrian programs. In addition, a giving tree will be on hand for those who want to help support either program with anything from a gift of $30 for the purchase of a new team saddle pad to $2,000 in sponsorship of an athlete in the postseason.

UC Berkeley's Taylor Harris on Stanford's Armani

While Stanford has a long history with seven consecutive IHSA top ten National Final finishes, Berkeley's young team has an amazing roster of riders and finished as reserve Regional Champions in 2012. Stanford's top-ranked open riders, sophomore Claire Margolis (who finished 3rd in the 2012 IHSA Cacchione Cup Medal Finals at her first National Finals) and co-term Rachel Kolb (who has two National Final appearances under her belt), have regularly traded top ribbons with UC Berkeley juniors, Taylor Marie Harris and Rachel Thurman, assuring that it should be a close competition. Both Thurman and Harris train and compete (when not at school) with long-time Stanford clinician James Hagman at his Elvenstar Farm in Moorepark, CA. Harris even keeps her horse, Consens, at the Red Barn. Hagman said he is excited for the event as he not only coaches up at Stanford several times a year, but has also started an IEA team at Elvenstar and looks forward to highlighting juniors as well. That being said, when pressed to choose his allegiances Hagman promised to support Stanford and all of the athletes with whom he has worked, but admitted he will be rooting for Harris and Thurman as well.

Stanford's Claire Margolis on Cal-rider owned Consens