GENOA – Mary McCausland sat at a long table with about a dozen other Genoa-Kingston athletes Wednesday night for a signing ceremony.
Placards adorned the table, with all the usual sports represented – baseball, softball, soccer, football and so on. But McCausland’s was one of a kind.
Riding horses since she was a child, McCausland signed to compete in equestrian at Delaware State.
“I started riding when I was really young, but really got into it when I was 7,” McCausland said. “Then I just stuck with it.”
McCausland’s mother, Susan, is a rider as well. But where she does the Western style – more of the cowboy, rodeo style – Mary McCausland fell into the English style, jumping fences instead of barrels.
Mary McCausland said she was about 7 when she decided to do the more classic riding style.
“I had this poster in my room forever, of this little girl jumping,” McCausland said. “I thought that looked really cool. So I told my mom I wanted to try that. I took a lesson, I took another lesson, and it just took off.”
McCausland competes under both the United States Equestrian Federation and the United States Hunter/Jumper Association. She and her horse, NH Artion, took fourth last week at the World Equestrian Winter Finale in Wilmington, Ohio.
“I was very pleased. I was happy with my horse,” McCausland said. “Hopefully, it will just keep getting better from there.”
She has two horses she alternates showing, she said, but that’s going to end once she heads to Delaware State in Dover. At the collegiate level, riders are assigned a horse before the competition, one they haven’t competed with before.
“It’s solely based on your skill as a rider,” McCausland said. “You have to be on top of your game and confident about what you’re doing.
“It’s like the luck of the draw. ‘Okay, here you go. ...’ ”
Seventeen colleges have a Division I equestrian program, according to a list on the sports’ website. The NCAA adopted equestrian as a sport in 1998, and the National Collegiate Equestrian Association was created as a governing body to advance the sport.
The national championship concludes Saturday morning. Auburn is the defending champion. No Big Ten schools have equestrian programs, and most of them are in the south.
Although competing at the college level will be different from what she’s used to, McCausland said she’s looking forward to the challenge.
“It will definitely test my skill as a rider,” McCausland said. “Hopefully, I have what it takes to not screw it up too bad. Whenever I’m at the barn, I try to get extra rides on horses I haven’t been on to improve, to get an idea of what it will feel like.”