BY KASS LAWRENCE ’22
At the Smith College Show on Saturday, Sept. 29, the Mount Holyoke Equestrian Team placed first with 38 points in a field of eight colleges. Trailing the Lyons by one point was the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, followed by Worcester State University in third place. Amherst College finished next in fourth, followed by Hampshire, Smith and Williams Colleges tied for fifth and Bennington College in sixth. The athletes had a successful show all around, and riders Tess Ahlers ’19, Lily DeBenedictis ’19 and Daisy Sears ’19 clutched regional qualifications early.
Although it’s still early in the season, the equestrian team is off to a great start, according to DeBenedictis.“I am very excited to see how the team will progress over the year,” said DeBenedictis. “There are little things to improve on, but that’s the nature of riding as a sport. There is always something new to learn.”
Emma Recchi ’19 and Rachael Fulop ’19 started off the show with a second and third-place finish, respectively, in Open Fences. After the sections of Intermediate Open Fences and Intermediate Flat had competed, riders Sears, Sara Hearn ’21 and Indra Rapinchuk-Souccar ’20 placed second, first and first in their respective categories. Many more riders contributed to the Lyons’ season-opener win. Piper Lacy ’22 won the overall high point of the show, and riders Sears and Faith Wang ’22 were also named high point riders in their class.
Although they performed well in their first show, the Lyons’ season has been affected by the passing of Mika McKinney, a 2018 graduate and former rider, this September. She was a Hunt Seat Varsity athlete and also a captain of the dressage team.
“The loss that we feel is a great one. Mika was a huge part of our community on the team and in the Equestrian Center,” said DeBenedictis. “In the wake of the news, we had a small celebration of life down at the [Equestrian] Center where we all sat around, had pizza, told stories, just sat together and found some solace in the company of friends and teammates and alums who knew Mika.”
“Now moving forward, we honor the impact she had on many of us,” said DeBenedictis. “We all know that she would want us to do our best and keep doing what we all shared in common: pursue our love of riding.”
To honor her memory, the team started the hashtag “RideForMika” to honor her at every show in which they compete. Lyons Equestrian has their next competition on Oct. 13 — the Williams College Show hosted at Bonnie Lea Farm.