Equestrian vs. South Carolina (copy)

Junior Caroline Dance was named the Dover Saddlery Flat Rider of the Month on Tuesday.

The No. 2 Texas A&M equestrian team will face off against the No. 8 South Carolina Gamecocks at 11 a.m. on Friday at the Hildebrand Equine Complex.

The Aggies head into their first home matchup of the season following three previous competitions on the road.

Last week, the Aggies competed in Bishop, Georgia, where they upset the then-No. 2 Bulldogs at home for the first time in program history, bringing their regular season record to 2-1. A&M junior Caroline Dance, who was recently named the Dover Saddlery Flat Rider of the Month, led the Flat competition with a final score of 85 points. Senior Ashley Davidson was also recognized by the National Collegiate Equestrian Association, being awarded the Shorty’s Horsemanship Rider of the Month earlier this week.

After a stretch of road meets to start the season, A&M coach Tana McKay said the team is eager to compete in Aggieland for the first time this season.

“We’re always excited to have a home meet,” McKay said. “To be here with our horses and with our fans, it’s just a comfort zone for the girls to have compared to the road competitions we’ve had.”

McKay said last week’s win over Georgia put momentum back on the Aggies’ side, as they look to close out the first half of the season against the Gamecocks on Friday and the defending NCEA Champion Auburn Tigers on Nov. 9.

“They’ve got a lot on their mind as far as the next two SEC meets,” McKay said. “They want to finish this semester with a bang. I know they didn’t take anything for granted and their practices have been good, and they’re working hard and doing all that they can.”

One of the biggest takeaways from the start of the season, McKay said, has been the importance of recognizing SEC talent with the right preparation.

“Every time we play them, it’s kind of like playing in a national championship,” McKay said. “We were very consistent across the board. You take that and you run with it, and you know that you can compete with the big dogs and hang in there.”

Friday morning’s forecast calls for 50-degree wind chills, but McKay said the team and their four-legged teammates should have no problem adjusting to the day.

“Really it’s the warm up,” McKay sai. “Once they get warmed up, they’re ready to go. Most of the horses deal with it all the time, but it is a different mentality and a little bit of a different process compared to when it’s so hot. Sometimes they’re easier to ride when it’s colder out, they just have more energy and feel better, instead of when it’s really hot and muggy.

Heading into Friday’s matchup, McKay said no matter the final result, she knows her team will compete to the best of its ability.

“Any coach’s expectations is to win, but when it’s a judge sport sometimes the winning is not in our hands,” McKay said. “Every time that girl walks out of the arena, we want them to feel like they did everything they could, they left it in the arena, they had a great ride and they did all that they could do. That’s a win in my book.”

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