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Panthers News · Equestrian battling to earn a spot at Regionals

by Jenn Zoerman

On Saturday, September 14, the West Ottawa Equestrian Team competed in the District 16 Equestrian Meet. It was the second of three meets, and the team was ambitious. They hoped to build on their second place finish in the first meet.

6:45 AM
WO arrived at the Hudsonville Fairgrounds before the sun was even up. Some arrived as early as 6:45 AM, but nevertheless unloaded our horses and got ready for opening ceremony and first classes. We’d been working hard all summer, even spring for a few, to prepare for this competition. In opening ceremony, riders Keelin Bonga, Savannah Chadwick, Clare and Maggie Heerspink, Maggie Hoffswell and Tessa Shumaker rode their horses in a series of complicated patterns put in time with a song (“Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” by Toby Keith). For the National Anthem, they gathered in the center while I loped around the arena on my horse holding the American Flag. After one lap around the arena, I handed the flag to Airman first class Brandon Thomas, who is to be shipped out next week.

Almost 12 Hours Later…
As our teammates watch from the rail, Maggie Heerspink and I enter the arena. We are the last two-man team from West Ottawa to run, also the last team to run at all. As I raise my hand, Heerspink urges her horse to run down to my end of the arena to deliver the baton in her hand. She maneuvers her horse to pull up beside mine, but my horse moved, and Heerspink’s horse smashed into mine at high speed. With a twist of my torso, I reach back and snatch the baton from my partner and race out of the transfer box and burst toward the other end of the arena. Our time was enough to put us in fifth place for the class.
Hours earlier, the team had discovered that we had slipped from second place to third in our division. We had started out the day in second place, exactly 30 points ahead of the third place team. In order to go to Regionals, we have to be in the top two. We worked hard all day to make up the points, but it didn’t seem to be enough. In the end, West Ottawa’s Equestrian Team finished in third, almost 100 points behind the leading teams. But was our effort a waste? No. There is one more meet, and for all we know, those top two teams could have a bad day next Saturday. “It’s not over until this time next Saturday,” Andy Zoerman said at 6:45 that evening. “We’ve got a shot as long as there’s more to the meet.”