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It's all about the ride

UGA’s Equestrian Program is one of the nation’s elite

by Nancy Evelyn (BFA '84, ABJ '88)

The sun has yet to rise when the 62 students begin arriving at the UGA Equestrian Center for their first home meet of the season. They are greeted by the smell of hay, the stomping of hooves, and an occasional whinny.

The horses are fitted with bridles, their tails and manes groomed, a good three hours before the event begins. Energy fills the stables as the women’s equestrian team prepares to compete in English and Western riding events. Only 12 to 20 of the team members will compete, the rest will perform the tasks surrounding the meet, helping with judging and media, washing down the horses and unbridling them following an event.

Begun in 2002, the UGA Equestrian Program is young, but has proven itself on a national scale. Coach Meghan Boenig, who was hired right out of graduate school at Texas A&M University, has taken the team to national competitions each year, winning two national titles and one national reserve, a second place finish. The team won each of its six home meets during the 2006-07 season and brought home the Southern Equestrian title for the third consecutive year. They finished third overall in the national competition in Waco, Texas, in April.

The program has been a boost for UGA, says Athletics Director Damon Evans. “It has provided opportunities for female student athletes at this university, which is significant in this day and age,” Evans says. “We want to be at the forefront of providing opportunities for female students.”

For more information on UGA’s Equestrian Program, contact Coach Meghan Boenig at 706/583-8304 or

Donate to the Equestrian Program by contacting Mark Ingram at 706/542-7812 or

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photos by Nancy Evelyn

Click on image to enlarge

Logan Fiorentino, a graduate student from Lloyd Harbor, N.Y., jumps with ARod during a warm-up before the fences competition during a meet with Berry College early in the season.

Coach Meghan Boenig, middle, works with the English riders as they warm up before a competition. Dressed in classic jodphurs and jackets, English riders show how well they can handle the horse through a series of predetermined maneuvers. English competition also includes jumping over a series of fences.

Kate Stewart, a sophomore from Dawson, rides Freejac in the Western reining event during the meet against South Carolina.

At the Bulldog Invitational, Daisy Whelan, a freshman from Tybee Island, is cheered by her fan club. From left, brother Eddie Whelan, Julia Hanna, Ashley Wills and Chrissy Reed.

Elora Emory, 4, traveled with the South Forsyth equestrian team to attend the meet against South Carolina. Meets draw horse fans of all ages.

Preparation for meets sometimes begins before dawn, and students often are at the stables until after dark.

Grooming the horses, including brushing and braiding manes, is part of prepping for a meet.

Leslie Webb, a senior from Cumming, is lunging Sabrina—a warm-up exercise—prior to the meet against Auburn.

Logan Fiorentino wraps the ankles of John E. to help protect them during practice.

Barn manager Amber Bradley, a UGA employee, treats Woody to a carrot at the end of the day.

Melinda Drury, a sophomore from Alpharetta, shares a quiet moment with Orlando at the Bulldog Invitational.

Kelley Cowperthwait, a sophomore from Southampton, N.J., leads Pete back to the stable after a post practice wash down.