After placing as the top two competitors during last Sunday’s Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Zone Championship, UCSB Equestrian Team co-captains Celia Turner and Becky Leisz will be traveling to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for IHSA Nationals.
Founded by UCSB alumni Lexi Pandell and Kim Kaslow in 2008, the UCSB Equestrian team currently attends 10 horse shows annually from September to March, and competes against universities such as University of Southern California, UC Los Angeles, San Diego State University, UC Irvine and Arizona State University.
According to Leisz, a third-year environmental studies and sociology major who competes in the equestrian Intermediate Flats division, the progression to Nationals occurred after both girls placed top two in Regionals in their separate divisions and advanced to Zones. The two equestrians then placed in the top two in Zones to advance to Nationals.
“Celia and I are very excited,” Leisz said. “I’m dedicated to horseback riding, and I’ve always been passionate, so this is a pretty cool opportunity…there will be colleges from all across the country there.”
In addition to organizing team activities, events, travel plans and other competition logistics as team captains, both Leisz and Turner also practice three to four days a week, several hours per day.
Turner, a third-year communication major and equestrian Intermediate Over Fences competitor, said her position has given her the opportunity to hone her leadership and time management skills.
“Being a captain has been a great learning experience,” Turner said. “It really taught me a lot, in terms of the organization, and I learned how to get things done as efficiently and effectively as possible.”
UCSB Equestrian Team coach and Gracelynd Hill Equestrian Horse Trainer Alanna Snowden said Turner and Leisz’s victory has largely been due to their hard work, commitment and zeal.
“Those particular two have years of experience riding, a strong passion for the sport, and a lot of dedication and willpower,” Snowden said. “I wish them both good luck, a great experience and a great time.”
During the competition, riders are given a horse they have never ridden before and judged based on their ability and skill in riding — including nuances such as position and form. After advancing all the way to the national level, Turner said she was overjoyed when she learned the results.
“It felt really unreal. I felt like I was going to cry,” Turner said. “I was so unbelievably happy. I’ve been riding for 12 years, my whole life.”
According to Snowden, Turner and Leisz stand as phenomenal examples of the possibilities for the UCSB Equestrian team’s future achievements.
“I think for UCSB Equestrian team and for equestrian teams in the Santa Barbara community in general, this is an eye-opener for what horses can do for us and what we can do for horses,” Snowden said. “I hope this invites people in and piques the interest of others to join the team or check out competitions.”