Junior Thea Chafee placed third at the Longines Masters of New York, held at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York this past weekend, April 26 and 27. The Longines Masters is an annual, international horse race which features some of the best equiticians across the globe.
According to Chafee, college equestrian, organized through the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA), operates very differently than professional riding. In the IHSA, students compete on horses randomly selected on the day of competition to even the playing field among all competitors.
“[In the IHSA], you are being judged on how well you can adapt and work with the horse and you are also being judged on your position and style on the horse,” Chafee said.
While the Longines Masters of New York typically does not feature collegiate riders, Chafee was excited to participate, representing both Colgate and the IHSA.
“It’s quite unheard of that IHSA would have a spot [in the competition], but this year somehow the people behind the Longines Masters agreed to host an Invitational for the top 25 riders in the area that compete in IHSA,” she explained.
The competition itself was very high pressure, given that Chafee was competing amongst olympic riders. Chafee felt that calming her nerves was one of the greatest challenges of the weekend.
“I think a major challenge was staying calm when competing in front of some of the world’s best. IHSA was completely taken to a new level this weekend and I was very honored to be a part of that,” Chafee said.
Chafee grew up in the sport and began competing in equitation at age nine. She has competed at national junior events, placing ninth out of the top 40 riders in the country in 2015. Chafee cites her family as some of her greatest influences and motivations in the sport.
“My parents both rode when they were younger and that’s actually how they met! My mom leased (rented) my dad’s pony and the rest was history. So one day when I was about five or six, my mom signed me up for riding lessons and I just never stopped,” Chafee said.
Chafee’s older sister, an olympic sailor, has also served as an incredible source of inspiration.
“I am always in awe of my sister and she definitely inspires me to never give up. When she first announced her campaign no one in my family took it that seriously, but then a year later we all found ourselves in Rio cheering her on,” she said. “I think she has shown me that nothing is impossible and if you keep working hard enough it will pay off.”
Chafee has been the captain of the Colgate Equestrian Team since her sophomore year. She has most enjoyed building relationships with her teammates through the experience.
“Through the team I have been able to meet so many new people and especially as a first-year I was able to make connections with upperclassmen that I don’t think I would have made otherwise,” Chafee said. “We practice at Saddleback Farm which is only ten minutes down the road. We practice twice a week so it’s not a huge commitment but I think many people on the team would attest that it’s what helps keep us sane.”
Though her teammates and coach were not with her at this past weekend’s events, Chafee felt proud to represent all of the people who have helped her grow in the sport.
“To finish in the top three and be able to stand on the podium was an amazing feeling and I’m still somewhat in shock,” she said.