Equestrian team gallops into first place

This past weekend, 16 teams from colleges and universities from all over Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York congregated at West Virginia University to contend in a sport most people probably have no idea Mercyhurst University even competed in.

They steer 1,500 pounds of sheer power and beauty around a challenging dirt track, gracefully navigating turns, and hurdling obstacles With a helmet, gloves, and boots, they don’t need much more. A strong connection to their ride, and a lot of dedicated practice has gotten them to the competition level.

There are no engines, handlebars, or seatbelts. There is only a focused rider and their horse. This is Equestrianism.

Sophomore Lindsey D’Andrea and freshman Sophia Damasceno both represented Mercyhurst University’s equestrian team this weekend at West Virginia University as part of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA). D’Andrea secured a first place finish in both her flat (non-jumping) and jumping class, while Damasceno placed fourth in her flat class. Additionally, D’Andrea won “High Point Rider of the Show” for her performance.
Sophia Damasceno and Lindsey D’Andrea display their ribbons after their show at WVU. Lindsey D'Andrea photoSophia Damasceno and Lindsey D’Andrea display their ribbons after their show at WVU. Lindsey D’Andrea photo
“Even though there were only two of us representing Mercyhurst, we held our own. I think it showed that, even though we are a very small team, we are definitely a force to be reckoned with,” said D’Andrea.

D’Andrea has always been connected to horses, and has developed into a passionate equestrian.

“I have been involved with horses my whole life. It all started when my little sister got horse riding lessons for her birthday. She became involved in the sport, then before I knew it, my mom, older sister, and myself were in riding lessons together,” said D’Andrea. “We then got our first horse, named Dee Right Flight, when I was about eight or nine years old.”

The equestrian team practices weekly at their local barn, Brenrick Stables in Edinboro. Under the guidance of acclaimed instructor Halli Bidwell, the team practices a variety of the numerous techniques of equestrianism. Consistent practice is important, as being an equestrian requires a multitude of unique skills.

“Some people think riding a horse is fairly simple, when it is in fact, quite the opposite. A horse responds to anything and everything you do when you are on them. One wrong move and you could end up being in a very dangerous situation,” said D’Andrea. “Telling a horse what to do involves various movements of the hands, heels, and legs on each side of the horse’s body.”

The team is always looking for new members, and has a lot in store for the year.

“This year we have a whole new set of officers who are planning on trips and events that will be a blast for anyone and everyone who wishes to be involved with horses,” said D’Andrea. It’s a very addictive sport that allows you to bond with these incredible animals in a way I never thought was even possible.”

The equestrian team’s next show is scheduled for Nov. 11 at Stone Gate Stables in Fort Edward, N.Y.