Meaghan Haugh

There must have been some lucky shoes on the horse Heather Chojnacki was riding last month at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association’s Z3 R4 Regional Championship.

Chojnacki, a member of Rider’s Equestrian team, placed first in the Individual Walk-Trot-Canter Equitation On The Flat category at the regional meet at Briarwood Farm in Flemington, N.J., on March 20, and qualified to compete in the Zone 3 Championship on Sunday, April 11, at Birchtown Stables in Forest City, Pa. She placed fourth at Zones.

“I believe this may be the first time we have ever had someone place first at Regionals and make it to Zones,” said Dean of Enrollment Susan Christian, who has been the team’s adviser since 2008. “At least, in the recent history, we have not had this accomplishment.”

Chojnacki, a junior Spanish and Global and Multinational Studies dual major, as well as secretary of the Equestrian Team, has been horseback riding since she was 6 years old.

“At first, I thought it was a mistake. Then I found out I was in the top two. It was really exciting,” she said. It was not until later that night at the formal banquet that Chojnacki found out that she had received first place prize – a bronze plate. “We had to wait all day.”

Chojnacki’s first prize was among the three honors the Rider entry received at Regionals. Team captain Cassie Thornton, a junior Accounting and International Business major, received the Captain of the Year award for Region 4. Western co-captain Meghan Carty, a junior Psychology major, placed fifth in Advanced Walk/Trot/Canter.

Rider competed against Bloomsburg University, Cedar Crest College, East Stroudsburg University, Kutztown University, Lafayette College, Lehigh University, Moravian College, Penn State Berks, Princeton University, Rutgers University, University of Scranton and Wilkes University.

“Cassie has done a tremendous job building the team and motivating them to enhance their skills,” Christian said. “I am just so proud of them. This is really a reflection of the team and how they have really progressed in the last year and a half, and the dedication of their coaches.”

The team recently moved to a new facility in Buckingham, Pa., where members take lessons with trainers Andrea Hart-Sagolla and Debbie Purowitz at Buckingham Valley Farm. Hart-Sagolla, founder and owner of Buckingham Valley Farm, has worked with Olympic trainers Karen Healey, Frank Chapot, and George Morris. This is the first college team that she has coached.

“I think the team did really well. I am proud of all of them,” Hart-Sagolla said. “We have been working on consistency and basic principles of equitation in order for the team to be successful.”

In addition, the executive board implemented an attendance policy and encourages team bonding and support at shows. In fact, all of the whole team came to cheer on Chojnacki at the Zones Championship, Thornton said.

“We go to these shows and just have fun, but it felt so good to be recognized,” Thornton said. “We put a lot of work into improving the team.”

This year, the team also plans to get involved with community service opportunities, such as volunteering at therapeutic riding centers, in order to build a stronger team and help others at the same time.

Rider University’s Equestrian Team is a member of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA), the largest intercollegiate equestrian organization in the United States, with 29 regions in nine zones, representing 300 colleges. IHSA features Hunter Seat Equitation, Western Horsemanship and Reining. Rider’s Equestrian Team welcomes riders of all levels. To learn more about the team, please visit