A slow start will make the second-ranked Texas A&M equestrian team have to wait another year to claim its first Southeastern Conference championship.
No. 1 Auburn scored three points in equitation over fences before A&M posted a point and the Tigers wrapped up their second SEC title 11-6 before any points were decided in the final division Saturday at the Hildebrand Equine Complex.
“We made a lot more mistakes today than we had yesterday, and you cannot have any mistakes when riding against these SEC teams,” A&M equestrian coach Tana McKay said. “We gave them a couple of points, and it’s just not an option. This is a really good precursor to nationals because it’s not going to get any easier by any means.”
The Aggies (9-5) gained a berth in the conference final for the second time in the seven years the event has been held by jumping to a 8-2 lead on Georgia in Friday’s semifinal. It was a completely different story Saturday.
“It was not a great start for us,” said Abby O’Mara, A&M assistant coach in charge of the hunter seat class. “We made some mistakes in fences that we normally don’t make. [Friday] we were pretty much mistake free, and today we went in there and made some mistakes with freshmen and younger riders on fences that we can’t be making in the postseason.”
The Aggies had a horse balk at a fence and another knock off a couple of rails, giving the Tigers some easy points, although Auburn was posting scores that would have been difficult to beat. A&M’s lone team point in fences came from senior Rebekah Chenelle, who had a 268 total from the three judges, which was high among the 10 riders and plenty to best Auburn’s McKayla Langmeier, who scored 253.
Auburn (15-0) won the other hunter seat class, equitation on the flat, 3-0, clinching the title when Caitlin Boyle tied A&M’s Caroline Pierce 238-238. No point is awarded for a tie, but Auburn led 9-3 with only five points remaining.
On Friday A&M won the hunter seat discipline 7-3 against Georgia, which won the consolation final over South Carolina 11-8 on Saturday morning.
“We are lacking consistency for sure having such a good day yesterday, and not a good day today, and nationals is five days of that, so it’s really important to stay solid every day,” O’Mara said. “It’s not OK to be good one day and bad the next, because you are never going to win that way, so we have to keep working on the consistency of every single ride. I did think the flat girls did a good job of keeping a head on their shoulders with the rough start and put in some really good rounds.”
A&M got points from Ashley Davidson, who twice has been SEC rider of the month, and Ashley Sioco, who for the second day drew Wrangler. On the first day she was granted a re-ride on another horse. On Saturday she won to pull the Aggies within 6-3 at the halftime break.
A&M and Auburn tied twice after the break, which did little to help the Aggies’ comeback attempt. Rhian Murphy tied Auburn’s Hayle Lannotti at 239 in flat with scores from the three judges that ranged from 87 to 72 points.
“It’s amazing to have ties like that with three judges,” McKay said. “It’s leaving points on the board, but it just shows how close it is as far as talent.”
Kalee McCann, Courtney Yohey and Darby Gardner picked up A&M’s final three team points in reining.
“We ended the meet with a win with the reiners, and I’m proud of them because the meet had already been decided, but they did not give up,” said McKay of A&M’s only group that lost Friday and won Saturday. “We’ve got to get all four events working, and the wheel greased all at the same time. It gives us something to work for, and hopefully we can shoot for it at nationals.
The Aggies will compete in the NCEA Championships in Waco on April 17-20.