Storybook equestrian teams head to zone competition

The Storybook Interscholastic Equestrian Association Team’s middle school team will participate in the zone finals March 22 and 23 in an attempt to defend its national title. Pictured are members of the middle and high school teams that competed in Brooklet, Ga., in the regionals.

The Storybook Farm middle and high school equestrian teams will be heading to Murfreesboro, Tenn., on March 23 and 24 for the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Zone 4 championship in hopes of repeating or building on last year’s success.

In 2012 in Syracuse, N.Y., the middle school (sixth-eighth grade) team won the national title while the high school team finished sixth overall. The middle school team earned a bye into the zone championship while the high school team won a regional event to qualify for zones.

This year’s Zone 4 championship originally was scheduled for Ocala, Fla., but was moved to Murfreesboro, Tenn., because of an equine disease outbreak in Florida.

“In order to host one of these shows, you have to bring in 40 to 50 horses, and people weren’t willing to do that,” said Storybook Farm coach Alicia Story.

Host sites supply the horses, and riders have a blind draw to determine which horse they will ride in the competition.

“That’s what makes this program what it is,” Story said. “Kids climb on horses they’ve never ridden before and have to compete. If a show is held in your territory, chances are you’ve ridden a few of the horses or you’ve seen your friends riding them and you know a little bit about the horse.”

Story said luck of the draw can help or hurt riders. She said last year’s middle school team rode well but also had some lucky draws, while the high school team drew a few horses that were more difficult to ride.

From the Zone 4 finals, the top four high school and top five middle school teams advance to the national competition in Syracuse, N.Y., where they will compete against as many as 600 others riders and teams from throughout the country.

The Storybook Farm high school team that qualified for the zone event consists of Natalie Thorpe, 11th grade, Bishop England; Brette Tennison, 11th grade, home school; Annie Walters, 11th grade, home school; Hannah Pressler, 9th grade, Bishop England; Elizabeth Ashcraft, 10th grade, James Island Charter; and Katelyn Campbell, 9th grade, Bishop England.

The middle school team is Anna B. Morrow, 8th grade, Mason Prep; Sophie Maurahan, 8th grade, University School of the Lowcountry; River Hanckel, 8th grade, First Baptist; and Rawleigh Harris, 7th grade, Moultrie Middle.

The Storybook team had riders qualify for 15 of a possible 24 individual spots: Tennison (fences); Darby Pease, 9th grade, Wando (flat and fences); Morrow (flat and fences); Matt Drummond, 10th grade, home school (fences); Addie Ledbetter, 12th grade, Fort Dorchester (fences); Mauerhan (flat and fences); Harris (fences); Lily Moore, 8th grade, Cario (flat); Hanckel (flat); Pressler (flat); Thorpe (flat); and Savanna Winters, 11th grade, Wando (flat).