By Andrew Glover
STILLWATER, Okla. —
For some, pressure isn’t a welcomed feeling. That’s not the case for Oklahoma State University equestrian junior Samantha Harrison — in fact, it’s the opposite.
“I guess you can say I’m a pressure junkie,” Harrison said.
This season, Harrison is taking on more events as she is riding in flat events along with over fences.
“I wanted to do the flat because it puts more on me to perform,” Harrison said. “I love riding. The more time I get to be in the ring the more fun it is for me.”
In equitation over fences, riders jump on a predetermined course and are judged on their position, consistency of pace and accuracy of leads, turns and distance to fences while producing a solid performance. In equitation on the flat is a pattern consisting of nine maneuvers performed within in a retangular-shaped arena marked by letters. Riders are judged on position and effectiveness of guiding her horse through the individual maneuvers.
Coach Larry Sanchez said Harrison is a strong leader for her team.
“You watch how she rides in the arena and how she works in the arena, you can see she is really trying to help take this team to another level,” Sanchez said. “At times she is vocal when she needs to be, but I would rather have someone that will show you how to do it right than just tell you.”
Harrison said her equestrian journey began at a very young age, when she was growing up in California.
“I told my mom one day ‘I just want to ride a pony,’” Harrison said. “She found me from lessons and it started from there.”
The OSU junior competed at La Canada High School in California and qualified for all medal finals in 2010 and was fourth in the Maclay Nationals, gold and silver medalist at the Young Riders and was West Coast Equestrian Medal Finals Champion in 2009.
In Harrison’s freshman season at Oklahoma State, she won two MVP performances in matches at Kansas State and against Delaware State. As a sophomore, Harrison picked up 11 head-to-head wins and went 3-0 in the National Collegiate Equestrian Association championships. This season, Harrison is On Wednesday, Harrison returns to the NCEA championship in Waco.
“It’s such an honor to just compete and go to nationals,” Harrison said. “I’m just grateful I am able to go and compete.”
The Cowgirls (11-5) are ranked second in the latest NCEA poll and earned the top seed in the Western discipline, consisting of reining and horsemanship. In reining competitors ride a pattern that consists of spins, sliding stops, roll backs and circles. Riders are judged on symmetry of figures properly placed variations of speed, size of circles accuracy and correctness of maneuvers. In horsemanship riders ride a predetermined pattern consisting of eight maneuvers and are judged on quality of maneuvers, effectiveness and position in the saddle.
OSU earned a first-round bye and will face the winner of Baylor and Auburn in the second round. Harrison said she is confident.
“I believe our Western team will be the champions this year,” Harrison said. “Being seeded No. 1, that’s pretty amazing.”
Oklahoma State earned the seventh seed in the Hunter Seat Bracket and face former conference rival Texas A&M.
“They are definitely a worthy competitor,” Harrison said. “I’m confident in myself and team that we can beat them, no doubt.”
Sanchez said he thought his team earned a fair seeding by the selection committee.
“Looked at strength of schedule, won-loss record and all those sorts of things,” Sanchez said. “In the Western, being 14-2 on the season was by far the best record, so the number one seed is where we belong. There was a couple in the (Hunter Seat) that had stellar records and of course they got seeded a little higher. That middle, there was a lot of deliberation on what to do with that bunch from four to eight.”