Reining Champions

Meaghan Hynes ’16 and Reynolds Martin ’15 ride into Randolph history.

(Left to right) Meaghan Hynes '16 and Reynolds Martin '15, seen here with Sunny Banks, earned the highest ranks of any athletes in the history of the College.

(Left to right) Meaghan Hynes ’16 and Reynolds Martin ’15, seen here with Sunny Banks, earned the highest ranks of any athletes in the history of the College.

The suspense was nerve-racking as the announcer for the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championship began calling out the winners of the novice equitation on the flat category—in reverse order.

As Anne “Reynolds” Martin ’15 waited for the results with the other riders, she wasn’t sure what to expect. She knew she had performed well, but how would her ride stack up compared to her opponents?

With each name, she grew more anxious. She wasn’t 10th place, or ninth, or eighth.

Finally, two riders remained. Martin, sporting number 329, was one of them.

“And now, the reserve champion,” the announcer’s voice boomed over the intercom.

“Number three twenty—“ Martin leaned forward, prepared to take the prize for runner-up.

“—five,” the announcer finished. The rider standing next to Martin stepped forward.

Martin covered her face with one hand and staggered backward. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she thought.

“I just didn’t know what to do,” Martin recalled in a recent interview. “Once they called second place, I knew that I had won it. I was amazed.”

She hadn’t just won the national championship, which was held last spring; Martin had made College history.

And she wasn’t alone. Meaghan Hynes ’16 placed third in the highly competitive intermediate equitation on the flat category.

They won the highest national rankings of any athlete in Randolph history.

“I was really proud of what they had done,” said Chris Mitchell, head equestrian coach. “They totally earned it.”

Reynolds Martin in the ring.

Reynolds Martin in the ring.

‘Stronger and Smarter’

There was a time when a national competition seemed out of Martin’s reach. When Mitchell took the reins of Randolph’s riding program in 2012, he felt Martin was not performing to her potential.

Consequently, Martin sat out for several horse shows that first semester. “She had some flaws in her riding that weren’t going to help her win,” Mitchell said. He put Martin through many hours of hard practice and regularly asked her to ride without stirrups, a dreaded exercise that taxes the legs, but helps build the endurance necessary to maintain perfect posture while steering a horse.

Hynes, who was working hard on her own performance, quickly became a cheerleader for Martin.

“Reynolds transformed as a rider,” Hynes said. “She grew stronger and smarter. She has talent, and she worked hard. She was getting places.”

Qualifying for Nationals

Last year, Martin earned enough points to qualify for the regional competition in the novice equitation on the flat division.

Meanwhile, Hynes, who competes in a higher category, was also advancing. She qualified for the regional competition for intermediate equitation on the flat. Both Randolph riders took the reserve champion— second place—slots in their divisions at the regional championships and in the zone finals, earning each of them a spot in the National Horse Show.

At the national competition, they tried not to be overwhelmed by the energy and excitement of the experience, which brings together hundreds of riders and horses.

“When you narrow the country down from thousands of riders to the top 16 in your division, it’s fantastic to get there and get a piece of it,” said Mitchell.

Hynes’ class went first, and she gave what Mitchell described as a flawless performance. Perhaps it helped that she refused to be nervous. “If I win, I’m a national champion, but if not, I still got to ride a horse,” she said, recalling her attitude during the ride. “I just ride to ride, every time.”

When she was called for third place, she looked up in the stands where her family cheered and then over to a gate at the edge of the ring, where Mitchell and Martin were jumping and hollering. “Knowing their support was there when I was in the ring was more important than receiving the ribbon,” she said.

Before long, it was her turn to cheer for Martin’s victory. Hynes and Martin celebrated, but it was not long before they started planning for their next season. They knew with hard work, they—and their teammates—had the opportunity to return to nationals.

Megan Hines and Reynolds Martin in the barn.

Megan Hines and Reynolds Martin take a break during a grueling photo shoot at the Riding Center.

‘They Want to Win’

Although Randolph’s region is one of the toughest in the country, Mitchell’s goal is to take the entire team to the national championship. The College’s full equestrian team has not appeared in the national championship in more than 15 years, but Mitchell believes the team is now working together well enough to do it.

“Their greatest strength is that they’re back to being a unified team,” Mitchell said. “That’s what will propel us beyond the regional championship.

“They don’t want to go down. They want to win,” he added. “And they know this is how they will help each other win.”

 


Homecoming Surprise

During a special half-time ceremony honoring Reynolds Martin ’15 and Meaghan Hynes ’16 for their performances at the National Horse Show, Martin and her coach, Chris Mitchell, were surprised with national championship rings. 
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