By Sebastian Moronta Blanco, Staff Writer
On Saturday, March 18, the UMass Dartmouth equestrian team competed in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Zone 1 Region 1 Equitation Finals at Claddagh Farm in Tiverton, Rhode Island.
The event was the last regular season event for the team, and were recognized as the third-place scoring team in a region of 11 teams for the season overall.
Sophomore and team captain Olivia Van Der Meer, Region 1’s Reserve High Point Rider for the season, took the top spot from two other riders in the open fences class, with a powerful performance early on in the event. She also narrowly missed qualifying for the open flat class, placing third out of five. She has won four open fences and three open flat classes so far in 2016-17, and is ranked second in the Zone 1 Region 1 open rider standings, trailing Lauren Henry from the University of Rhode Island by just 8 points, and holding a firm twenty point lead in front of the next rider.
The top-two riders in each event will move on to represent Region 1 at the Zone 1 championships on April 8 at Mount Holyoke College. The top-two riders at Zones will move on to the National IHSA Championships at The Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky.
Fellow team captains Jillian Ruyffelaert and Nicole Ineson joined Van Der Meer in Tiverton and competed on the flat as their last performances for the team. Ruyffelaert was in her first show after recovering from an injury over the winter, placed sixth of eight riders in novice flat to end her IHSA career. Ineson placed third in the final class of the event, the walk trot, falling just short of qualifying for Zones and joining Van Der Meer.
This is the fourth year in a row the UMass Dartmouth team has sent a rider to Zones, this marks the fourth and most successful year for the team under head coach Mary Charette, after joining the team in 2012. Charette runs Claddagh farm, where the event was hosted.
A native of Fall River and a graduate of B.M.C. Durfee High School, Charette moved to Florida and trained with Paul Valliere, while competing on the international show jumping circuit known as the “A” Circuit for more than 20 years.
As a junior, she qualified for all of the major equitation finals under the tutelage of Valliere and Debbie Hoyt Banfield. She has served as an assistant rider and trainer for Jay Sargent at Sandy Point Stables in Portsmouth, RI., and as barn manager for David Ollynyk of Ollynyk Show Stables in Plainville, Mass. and Wellington, Fla., prior to opening Claddagh Farm.