May 13, 2008

The University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture is celebrating national championships by two of its collegiate equine teams. Riders from its equestrian and dressage teams nabbed top honors in their respective competitions.

The UK Equestrian Team bested 17 other hunt seat teams from across the country at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association national championships May 8-11 in Burbank, Calif., to take home UK’s first team championship. This was only the second year the team’s hunt seat division earned the right to compete in team competition at collegiate nationals. The team placed eighth last year.

Two individual riders from the equestrian team’s stock seat division also scored big at this year’s nationals. Alumni rider Lacey Wercynski was reserve national champion and Emily Gaskin placed eighth.

A rider from UK’s Dressage Team also won a national championship at the 2008 Intercollegiate Dressage Association national championships April 26 at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. Freshman Allison Wilaby of Colorado Springs, Colo., was named national champion in First Level Test One Division.

“It hasn’t quite sunken in and I don’t think any of us have slept yet,” said Callie Schott, whose performance in both of her classes – over fences and equitation, boosted UK’s Equestrian Team totals to take the lead from the University of Findlay, Ohio. “It was just a great feeling because no one expected us to win at all and we came out of nowhere.

“It came down to the very end. I had to win or get second in my class for us to do it. Findlay was going into the last class with 18 points. We only had 14,” said Schott. “They were calling it the ‘Cinderella story’ of nationals.”

Team rider Ali Cibon also won her class, adding to UK’s points total. Other hunt seat team riders included Louise Bowden, Sarah Bybee, Allison Davidson and Rebecca Wichard.

“I was so excited to get to go back and just wanted to place again this year to keep our name up there,” said Wichard, who was also one of the members of last year’s nationals team.

“It’s been a lot of fun and we got some neat prizes,” she said. “It was kind of fun flying back. We each got a bouquet of roses and people thought we were moms because we were flying back on Mother’s Day.”

“I am so thrilled for our teams. My freshman year, the equestrian team hadn’t thought of taking a team to nationals. Now this is two years in a row and we’ve come away with some pretty big wins,” said Christi Burrington, 2007-2008 UK Equestrian Team stock seat division vice president.

According to faculty advisor Bob Coleman, the team’s success is a direct reflection of the hard work and time spent by the team’s two coaches, Michelle Zimmer and Bennie Sargent. The hunt seat team is coached by Zimmer and rides at Robert Murphy Stables. The stock seat team is coached by Sargent and rides at High Point Equestrian Center.

The team relies heavily on fundraising and the generous support of its sponsors in order to compete, Coleman said, and their support has been instrumental in helping the team be nationally competitive. Sponsors for this year include UK’s Equine Initiative, Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, Hagyard Equine Medical Institute and the Kentucky Equine Education Project. In order to raise enough money to compete throughout the year, team members also volunteer at Lakeside Arena and Kentucky Horse Park events, the Rolex Three Day Event and at events held by various breed associations.

For more information about the UK Equestrian Team, contact team advisor Bob Coleman at or 859- 257-9451. For more information about the UK Dressage Team, contact team president Marlene Tremblay at

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