By Carter Anderson
The Sweet Briar Vixens, of Sweet Briar College in Virginia, have completed their first year as a National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) team with Head Coach Mimi Wroten leading the way. Mimi is excited to add to the accolades of Sweet Briar’s successful first season. She hopes that other equestrian teams will consider joining the NCEA and take advantage of the additional opportunity for women and athletics, in general.
What were your expectations upon joining the NCEA?
The reason I wanted to have Sweet Briar join the NCEA was because I had experienced the format from judging and really liked it. I thought that the students I was teaching at Sweet Briar could do well in that format and enjoy it, as well.
Since Sweet Briar became an NCEA equestrian team, have you changed anything about your program and training to prepare for seasons to come?
We haven’t changed anything drastically. The major change has been to up the intensity on flatwork due to the smaller size of the arena. Within the NCEA, flatwork is done in a 20×40 dressage arena. We had done leg yields and flat tests in a larger arena, but the smaller arena makes things tighter. We have to practice being a little more attentive to timing and the need for getting it done.
What was your favorite moment in the Vixens’ first season in the NCEA?
I have two favorite moments: One was getting to be part of NCEA Nationals. It was great to have our students compete well and feel good about their rides. We won a point in each of the events that we did! That was a highlight for me. My second moment would be when we competed outside of our territory at the University of Georgia. We were going up against the number-one seeded team in the nation and we left that experience feeling good, in the sense that we certainly had things to work on, but we felt like we held our own there.
What are you, as a coach, looking forward to most about being a part of NCEA?
I have found this organization and this group to be so welcoming, helpful, and supportive. Our first meet was against Delaware State University, who made sure we knew how the process went and helped us to walk through it. Then, we had a dual meet with University of Martin and Minnesota Crookston where we had to learn the ropes in more detail. Every time there is something new to us, everyone in the association has been so welcoming and it has been a great experience because of that.
How was the team’s first experience at the National Championship?
Our athletes were a little starstruck at some moments competing against some of the top riders that they had merely read about. Others had competed against some of these riders before. Overall, it was such a great opportunity and was a lot of fun. It was fun to watch other teams ride some of the same horses we got to ride earlier in the week. We were able to compare how we did things versus how they did things. We were also able to see how the horses appreciated both styles. It’s a whole new collegiate experience with teams cheering galore; each team has their own special cheers. I got some tips and tricks from one of the Georgia athletes on how to create some cheers for next year.
What one piece of advice would you give to other schools that are looking to become an NCEA equestrian team?
The neat thing about NCEA is that the format is very different from IHSA. It’s easier on the horses in that the riders are at a higher skill level and there’s an allotted warmup time. We have to constantly remember that the horses are the reason why we can do the things that we do: We have to make sure that we can help them in the best way possible, which will, in turn, help our athletes, as well.