The collegiate equestrian competition season is off to a promising start for Peyton Wong. The University of Tampa sophomore made her debut last weekend in the first show of the season for Zone 5, Region 5 of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA). Wong made an immediate impression on the judges, competing in four different classes in the Open Division and winning a ribbon in each against stiff competition.
The show took place over two days in Ocala, Florida, and featured hundreds of riders from eleven teams across the southeast, including the University of Florida, University of Central Florida, Savannah College of Art and Design, University of South Florida, Florida State University, and of course Wong’s University of Tampa team.
Wong rose to the challenge, placing 5th and 6th in her classes on Saturday, and then improving to place 2nd in the Open Varsity Under Saddle and 5th in the Open Varsity Over Fences on Sunday. She praised her teammates and the team coach, Karey McGee, as being “super supportive of each other”. Despite her strong showing Wong noted room for improvement. “Even though I didn’t place as well as I hoped I felt that I rode well and learned a lot,” she said. “The Open division is the highest division and is the hardest, so I have to continue to improve and get stronger as a rider.”
In IHSA competition the horses are furnished by the host colleges and are randomly assigned to riders by drawing lots. No schooling or preparation is permitted, a format designed to challenge the horsemanship of the athletes. This posed no challenges for Wong, who was captain of the Queens College Equestrian Team back home in Nassau and rode in Bahamas Interscholastic Equestrian League (BIEL) shows which follow a similar, horse-drawn, format.
“The Bahamas Interscholastic Equestrian League was founded for this very purpose,” noted Equestrian Bahamas President Cathy Ramsingh-Pierre, “to allow non-horse owners access to quality competition, and to prepare our riders for the collegiate riding format. Congratulations to Peyton! Her success speaks to her dedication and talent, but also to the value of BIEL as a development path for our school-age riders.”
The opening Bahamas Interscholastic Equestrian League competition of the 2021-2022 year will take place at Mariposa Farms on October 30, 2021. Spectators are welcome but Covid-19 protocols such as required masks and social distancing will be strictly enforced.