This year, St. John’s equestrian team is coming back stronger than ever before with a new coach, competition barn, team lessons, and a few new team members.
Show Coach Deysha Rivera has been annexed to the coaching staff this year from our home barn, Rock Creek Park Horse Center. She has been attending each show and teaching lessons for the team, allowing Mrs. Fernandez to take a step back and focus on the administrative side of team life while Mrs. Gelso is away on maternity leave for the first semester. So far, Coach Rivera has been a huge help for the team and has made life at each hectic show much less complicated.
The equestrian team competes in the ISHS show circuit, which consists of competing teams from schools and barns in the DMV area. Shows rotate between Nothing Fancy Farm and Coexist Stables, a new barn in Mount Airy that has replaced the previous show barn, Oatland Stables, due to the barn management’s decision to focus on the IEA show circuit.
Out of the three shows so far, only one competition was held at Coexist Stables, which took place on Sunday, Oct. 20. The students that attended this show said the new facilities were great. “It was their first ISHS show ever, but it went really smoothly, so you’ve got to give them credit,” said Caroline Lokken ’23. Each SJC student that participated in the show placed very well, and team captain Iris Moseley ’20 placed as champion for her overall division.
Another new addition to the team’s strategy this year is team lessons. The majority of the equestrian team has been split into two groups this year for team lessons. In previous years, team members met a requirement for ISHS lesson standards by riding at an approved barn of their choosing at least once a week. This year, students ride either on Wednesday or Thursday afternoons at Rock Creek Park Horse Center under the instruction of Coach Rivera. The team has been working on their positions and overall strategies for adapting to new horses, as well as riding through complex jump courses.
These team lessons have not only been beneficial for individual enhancement, but even more so for the overall spirit of the team. Moseley said, “The team lessons that we have partnered with Rock Creek Park Horse Center for this year have been really helping our team! Before we weren’t all practicing with each other, and I think that practicing together has really brought us closer as a team. We have gotten to know each other a lot better since we now spend at least two hours together each week. It has also helped our new coach get to know us as riders and in the end has brought everyone together as one team in the end.”
Additionally, three new freshmen were added to the JV team this year: Leire Sofia Rossi-Crespo ’23 (novice), Caroline Lokken ’23 (novice) and Melanie Dmytrijuk ’23 (assistant manager).
Sadly, the equestrian team and the overall St. John’s community suffered a tragic loss in September, when Mrs. Bonnie Bush passed away unexpectedly. Mrs. Bush was the moderator for the team and played a huge role in the foundation of the Equestrian Club, as well as its transition into an official varsity sport. Mrs. Bush will be greatly missed by the equestrian team and its members, but her memory will not be forgotten. Mrs. Fernandez said, “Above all else, Mrs. Bush was one of the kindest and most compassionate people we’ve had the honor of knowing, and we’ve lost a great friend.”