Otterbein Dressage, Hunt Seat Teams Add Another Strong Season to Impressive Equine Program

Posted May 26, 2022

Otterbein University’s equine teams recently wrapped up strong finishes to their first respective competition seasons in three years.

The dressage team won the Intercollegiate Dressage Association’s national championship on April 24 —the team’s second consecutive title.

On May 8, the hunt seat team completed their season as zone and region champions. The team placed 13th in the national tournament.

“We went into the season being a very green team,” said Jennifer Roth, dressage coach and a 2002 graduate of Otterbein. “We prepare them as much as possible and the team did well … I think it’s a testament to the variety and quality of the horses we have at Otterbein that allows our kids to be more versatile than any other school in the nation.”

It was the first national competition since 2019 for both teams, after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most of the 2020 season and the entirety of 2021. Prior to that stoppage, the Otterbein dressage team won the national championship in 2019, while the hunt seat team placed in the top six nationally in back-to-back years.



Otterbein’s riders performed well at the individual level, as well. Two of the dressage team’s four riders took first place in their respective levels.

· Valerie Golden, a junior equine business management major, won the F2 level.

· Lily Syah, a senior equine pre-veterinary and biochemistry and molecular biology major, won the T1 level.

· Jenna McPeek, a junior equine pre-veterinary and biochemistry and molecular biology major, placed third in the T2 level.

· Isabella Cobrun, a senior biochemistry and molecular biology major, placed eighth in the Intro B level.

· Taoni Hickey, a junior pre-veterinary major, won first place in the lower training level in equitation.

“We kind of felt like we were robbed of those years and would have less of a chance of getting a national title,” said Siya, who also serves as the team’s president. “Being able to get a national title our one year of actually being able to do it — that was really nice.”


The hunt seat team previously won its zone and regional championships in order to qualify for nationals.

Hunt Seat

“Nationals is just a different experience,” said Lindsay Yinger, the hunt seat coach. “The intensity is pretty heightened, not just in terms of the environment but also what they’re asking you to do. Just learning how to handle nerves and pressure and all that, there isn’t another way to practice that.”

Otterbein also had standout individual riders at the hunt seat national show.

· Alex Cernelich, a junior equine pre-veterinary major, took first place in the Intermediate Equitation on the Flat.

· Elizabeth Orosz, a junior equine business major, finished 10th in the Open Equitation on the Flat.

· Sofia Priller, a senior environmental science and sustainability studies major, finished fourth in Intermediate Equitation Over Fences and eighth in Limit Equitation Over Fences.


The wait for this season was a long one for both teams. From March of 2020 until the start of this season, the competitions that riders work so hard for were put on hold, leaving them with nothing to do but practice. And yet, they happily did so, gathering together at the Austin E. Knowlton Center for Equine Science to try and master their trade, all the while forging stronger bonds with the horses, coaches and each other.

“We spent a lot of time at home, taking care of our horses and really focusing on practicing together,” Cernelich said. “That time we spent together through a very unique experience that none of us saw coming was definitely something that made us get to know each other better. We got to have fun together during that time.”

The Otterbein equine teams have blossomed since the 2009 opening of the Knowlton Center, a 70-acre area two miles northeast of campus that houses 52 horse stalls along with an indoor riding arena, classrooms, office space, and more. Otterbein owns 35 horses that have been donated to the program.

“The barn is absolutely amazing,” Syah said. “I actually watched a lesson when I first visited here, and comparing that lesson to a few others I watched at neighboring schools with equestrian teams, I was completely sold on Otterbein. The instructors are really good at applying their own knowledge to everyone’s individual needs.”

About 70 riders participated in the equestrian teams this year — an eye-popping number when considering the modest size of Otterbein’s student body. According to Kari Briggs, the equine center’s business manager and a riding coach, says at least 95% of those riders arrived at Otterbein with a strong horse riding background. But every aspect of the equine program has been crucial to fostering the school’s nationally recognized success.

“(Students) don’t come here just to ride,” Roth said. “They come here for the academic aspects and high-quality education that also has an excellent riding team. Our instruction really, really helps.”