Photo by Brigid Sexton Photography.
For many athletes, representing your country on an international stage is the ultimate achievement. Suddenly, you have an entire nation supporting and rooting for your success. Sweet Briar College sophomore Makayla Benjamin will get a chance to experience that when she rides for the United States at the AIEC-SRNC World Finals.
Benjamin, an engineering major and business minor, will be one of three riders representing Team USA in Germany from Dec. 29, 2015 to Jan. 1, 2016. In total, 15 countries will compete during the three-day competition.
“I feel very honored to be selected to represent both Sweet Briar College and Team USA on this international stage,” Benjamin said. “I hope to represent well and continue improving my riding while I am there.”
“I am extremely proud of Makayla and thrilled that she has been given this opportunity,” said Mimi Wroten, director of riding at Sweet Briar. “Makayla is a dedicated, hard working and talented rider whose focus, attention to detail and determination will take her far in this competition. She will be a great representative of both Sweet Briar and the United States of America.”
Selection for the team is based upon how well riders have done at previous Student Rider Nations Cup competitions during the year. During the summer, Benjamin traveled to Sweden for a competition in hopes that it would earn her a spot on Team USA for the world finals.
“Luckily, I competed well and was selected as one of the top three riders on the team to represent [the United States] at the world final.”
The competition is broken into four stages, with the first stage having every rider competing in both dressage and show jumping. Then the field is cut down to 12 riders for another round of dressage and show jumping on different horses. The finals on New Year’s Eve consist of the top two riders competing head-to-head on the same two horses in front of the judges.
“The experiences outside of the competitions are also amazing, because the organizers know that we are visiting the city as well as competing,” Benjamin said. “They plan nightly events that get us out into the town and involved in the host country’s traditions. We are developing so many relationships with different people from around the world.”
Some of the evening events include a welcome party, pub crawl, New Year’s Gala, and awards ceremony. And thanks to connections she has made through this program, Benjamin is going to be spending two weeks working in Holland after the competition.
“It’s just such a great community to be a part of and it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet so many people from around the world who all have a common goal.”
Benjamin says that the World University Equestrian Federation
— known by its French abbreviation, AIEC — family is a very supportive group and she has felt welcome since her first competition. She is also thankful for how supportive Sweet Briar has been in all her endeavors and for pushing her to be better every day.
The AIEC-SRNC World Finals take place in Marburg-Dagobertshausen, Germany, between Dec. 29, 2015 ,and Jan. 1, 2016.