BY MATT DEYOUNG
Coach Jo Kosanic has only one rider returning from last year’s state championship Grand Haven varsity equestrian team.
That doesn’t mean the Buccaneers’ coach is worried about her current squad.
In fact, she’s thrilled with the talent of her riders and their horses.
“This is an incredibly strong team with very talented riders and lots of ‘horse power’ (very versatile and well trained horses),” Kosanic said. “My problem this year is one any coach should want — I have more talent than I have slots for. Not allowing some of the girls to go in classes that they would be competitive in is breaking my heart, but on the other hand, should I have a horse or rider go down, I have lots of depth I can go to.”
The Buccaneers’ squad boasts four riders, including sophomore Olivia Ortiz. She is the only returning rider from last fall’s state championship team.
Ortiz will be riding two horses — Nacho in all the Saddle Seat and Hunt Seat classes, including Jumping; and Tilly in the Speed events.
The other three riders are all freshmen who have spent the last three years in the Junior Equestrian Program through the Grand Haven middle schools — Kyah Schumake, Rya Green and Lily Atkinson.
Equestrian season for District 9 begins on Sept. 14 with a two-day meet in Ludington at the West Michigan Fairgrounds. The Bucs will compete in the C Division (3-5 rider teams) with 24 slots to fill.
BUCS SHINE AT SHORELINE ALL-BREED YOUTH SHOW
Atkinson and Greene, along with Cassidy Ryder and Mara Tillman of the Lakeshore Middle School junior equestrian team, joined former teammates Claire Tillman of Albion College and Megan Yasick of Michigan State University to compete at the Shoreline All Breed Youth Show, held at the Ludington Fairgrounds this past weekend.
Tillman, the 2012 Mary A. Caswell Sportsmanship Award Recipient, walked away with five first-place finishes in Huntseat bareback, pony halter, Equitation Over Fences, Huntseat Equitation for 16-18 year olds and was awarded top Grand Champion honors in the championship class, which included 17 other first- and second-place winners from all age groups.
Tillman, who trained her own horse Nacho, said of the win, “This is what I came here to do today. We work hard for this. I was fortunate to win Grand Champion last year, so it meant a lot to me to be able to be here this weekend for my last year of youth showing. There were so many fine riders in the Huntseat Championship class, I am honored to be among them.”
This was not the only championship honor for the Tillman family. Sister Mara Tillman took Reserve Grand Champion in Walk Trot Showmanship and English Equitation Walk Trot. She also won English Showmanship Walk Trot.
Ryder, an eighth-grader at Lakeshore Middle School, also had a stellar showing this past weekend. Her highlights included first place in Western Showmanship ages 11-12, along with third-place finishes for her age group in English Equitation, English Pleasure and Western Equitation.
Ryder also earned Reserve Champion for showmanship.
Greene had a great show, finishing first in Huntseat Bareback 13-15 year olds, second in Western Equitation, and fifth place in the Huntseat Equitation Championship.
Teammate Atkinson, who competes in the saddleseat, huntseat, western and gymkana disciplines showed in 26 classes, finishing in the top three for 13 classes. She also placed in four championship classes.
Her top finishes included first in Western Bareback 13-15 year olds, Western Reining, Keyhole, cloverleaf and two-man relay with Yasick.
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