Typically, when an athletic team struggles to perform due to an illness it is because the team members themselves have fallen ill. However, in the week preceding their upcoming show at Sewanee on Sept. 24-25, the Maryville College equestrian team experienced an unanticipated setback when the threat of an equine virus forced the team to halt all riding due to quarantine at Penrose Farm.
On Sept. 16, a veterinarian and his assistants visited Penrose Farm to work with a horse there. Earlier that day, the veterinarian had put down a horse that had the equine rhinopneumonitis virus, EHV-1, which is also called the equine herpes virus. At the time, the veterinarian and his assistants were not aware the horse had the virus and therefore did not change clothes before coming to Penrose.
Because the virus can spread on contaminated clothing, Penrose entered quarantine and immediately began monitoring horses for any sign of infection.
No horse showed any symptoms within the standard incubation period of two to 10 days, so riding has resumed as normal.
However, the incident made it difficult for members of the equestrian team to prepare as they normally would for the upcoming show. Usually each rider gets two lessons per week, but lessons had to be cancelled the Monday and Tuesday before the show, making it difficult for some riders to reschedule lessons and ride twice.
“I think it affected the new riders that had never done an IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Show Association) show before only in the aspect that in the last week of preparation for the show, they didn’t really get any [practice time]. However, in true Maryville style they pulled through and performed well at the show despite the fact that they hadn’t ridden for an extended period of time,” team captain Meagan Attanasio said.
Jenica Lamar, a freshman rider, won first place in her advanced walk-trot-canter class on Saturday, but did not place on Sunday.
“I had a great time at the show, but I think more preparation would have been better,” Lamar said. “There’s a lot of difference in what I was used to but horseback riding judging is always subjective.”“Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw, but that’s what makes the sport interesting.”
Another setback the team has faced this semester is a lack of diversity between levels of experience. Teams that compete in the IHSA enter riders in nine divisions of riding: walk-trot, beginning walk-trot-canter, advanced walk-trot-canter, novice (both on the flat and over fences), intermediate (both on the flat and over fences), and open (both on the flat and over fences).
The MCET has riders that qualify to compete in only five of those divisions, lacking riders that ride in either intermediate or open classes. In order to accrue team points, the trainer must select the rider in each class they believe is most likely to win, ultimately picking nine riders total. However, the MCET can only select five riders total, making it difficult to win high point or reserve high point team.
Amy Kirby is one of the six members of the team that rides in the novice on-the-flat class.
“It’s frustrating, but I’m glad that we have so many talented riders,” Kirby said. “It’s only frustrating that no one really gets to participate.”
Despite this semester’s rough start, the members of the team remain positive and continue to work hard to prepare for their next show, which they will be hosting at Penrose Farm on Oct. 22-23.