Texas A&M freshman Grace Boston envisioned a great ride from the time the horse assignments were handed out for the Aggies’ semifinal match against Georgia on Friday at the Southeastern Conference Equestrian Championship.
She didn’t know just how good it would have to be, nor how important.
Boston won her hunter seat fences competition 255-254 over Hayley Mairano to clinch the Aggies’ 12-8 victory over Georgia and set up a title match with Auburn at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Hildebrand Equine Center. Auburn defeated South Carolina 13-7.
“Yesterday we got to watch all the horses jump around, and I’d seen that one before, never ridden it, but it goes super slow, which is my favorite thing going so slow, so I knew he would be my ride if I got him,” Boston said. “When we got the draw, our whole team was at dinner and looked at it and said, ‘OK, tomorrow is going to be a good day.’”
In conference and national events, riders are assigned another program’s horses, which on Friday for A&M and Georgia meant horses from Auburn or South Carolina.
Georgia rallied from 8-2 down to get within 10-6 when Boston entered the ring against Mairano. Boston was winless in the SEC regular season and had the added pressure of knowing the score she had to beat to claim her individual point was the best posted by any of the previous eight riders.
“I’ve been waiting all season for one standout ride, to have that one ride I’m completely proud of, that the team is proud of, that helps us all out,” Boston said. “So it was really cool to have it on such a big competition like this. It was awesome.”
The team victory was the first for A&M (10-4) in three attempts this season against Georgia (4-7), the two-time defending SEC champion.
“We weren’t happy with how we performed the last time Georgia came here,” said A&M assistant coach Abby O’Mara, who is in charge of the hunter seat events. “We knew that we could beat them, so it was definitely a defeating feeling, and I think since then we have been working extra hard to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
With the flats and horsemanship events starting at the same time, the Aggies jumped ahead quickly, winning 4-1 in each event for an 8-2 halftime lead.
Georgia then won two reigning points, and the teams had to wait on three other scores because of reviews. But A&M freshman Haley Redifer, sophomore Caroline Dance and Boston gained the necessary points needed before the results of the reviews were posted to clinch the team victory.
“Basically, the hunt seat teams stepped it up for us big time,” A&M head coach Tana McKay said. “Abby [O’Mara] is the star.”
A&M’s Brianna Peddicord, Dance, Rhian Murphy and Rebekah Chenelle won on the flat.
A&M also won horsemanship 4-1 with victories from junior Ashley Davidson, Alex Albright, Katie Conklin and Ashley Siocco, who was awarded a re-ride after her first horse was spooked.
Boston, Chenelle and Conklin each were awarded Most Outstanding Performer awards.