Kari Hancock of Anchorage has been around horses her whole life, but that doesn’t mean they are all the same. They are still animals.
She was reminded of that at the Big 12 Championships in Waco, Texas, where the Texas Christian University freshman rider was partnered with different horses on both days of NCAA Division I equestrian competition with the hunt seat team.
The 18-year-old Alaskan handled it like a pro, winning her individual matchup against No. 6 Baylor and then just missing victory against No. 5 Kansas State to highlight the weekend for ninth-ranked TCU.
“I personally think I rode really well, especially for my first time at Big 12 Championships,” Hancock said. “It was an amazing feeling to win my point on Friday, especially by 20 points. I had a few nerves before getting on to ride, but every time I get on a horse for competition all of my nerves go away and it becomes just me and the horse.”
The way the NCAA equestrian works during the season is that the hosting schools horses are used. They use a draw system to determine who rides the horses. They pick five horses for each discipline [over fences, flat, reining and horsemanship]. Then they draw one rider from each school to ride the selected horses. The rider who score the highest earns a point for their team. Each rider gets a four-minute warm-up prior to competition.
For Big 12 and other major championships, including nationals, each team brings horses to be used for the event. Then they use the same draw procedures to pick a horse and a rider from each school.
Against Baylor, Hancock drew a TCU horse who she has ridden during practices hadn’t competed on him. She beat her opponent 159-139.
Against Kansas State, she rode a Kansas State horse so the K State rider would’ve been familiar with the horse. She appeared to have scored another point for her team in the discipline, but dropped a hard-fought 144-142 decision.
“Sometimes it’s to your advantage to ride a horse you know and sometimes it isn’t,” said Kari’s mom, Anne Hancock. “They are large animals who can be great one day and feisty the next.”
At next week’s NCAA Championships, the chances of riding your own school’s horses are not as high because there will be horses from a dozen different schools.
Hancock, of South High in Anchorage, was pleased with her overall performance.
“It’s an amazing feeling to ride really well and know that you put in a great ride, but sometimes it’s the tougher rides that teach you the most. Saturday was another new horse for me, and when I got on it definitely took me a while to figure him out; but what I am most proud of is the fact that I was able to figure out how to ride him,” Hancock said.
“It wasn’t a flawless ride and I made some mistakes that cost me a win by two points, which was hard considering how well the day before went. However it taught me a lot about paying attention to the warming signs the horse gives you, and relaxing through the ride to let the horse do some of the work as well. As a perfectionist I always try to do too much and often forget to let the horse pick up some of the slack.”
Van Williams, a 20-year local sports writer and the former sports editor of the Anchorage Daily News, writes about the athletic exploits of Alaskans for the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This post appeared first on the Hall of Fame website.