“Qualifying for regionals has been a goal of mine ever since I joined the team my freshman year,” said Shannon Salvia, a senior nursing major and captain of the Equestrian Team. “I am really excited about being able to compete in this highly competitive show because it gives me the chance to experience something new and motivates me to achieve bigger goals.”
The IHSA Zone 2, Region 4 competition is set to take place at the Sagamore Hill Stables in Northport on Sunday, March 19.
Salvia will be joined by teammates Caitlyn Pietrzak, Samantha Sofoklis and Taylor Murphy.
Ready for Regionals
The members of the Equestrian Team will prepare for regionals at the Good Shepherds Barn in Yaphank, where the students ride a shared group of horses. This allows them to grow in their skills and comfort on any horse, which comes in handy in terms of getting ready for events.
“At a show, we ride a random horse from whichever school is hosting the competition,” said Pietrzak, a junior child study major. “At an IHSA event, a drawing is done before the event to decide which horse is assigned to which rider.”
Murphy, a sophomore psychology major, elaborated.
“You never know what kind of horse you are going to get, which is why it’s important to ride different horses,” she explained.
But that doesn’t mean the riders don’t have their own favorites at the barn.
Sofoklis, a junior child study major who started riding competitively in October 2021, prefers to ride a horse who shares her first name.
“Sam has a super silly personality, and he is very comfortable to ride,” Sofoklis, 20, said of the warmblood chestnut horse.
Pietrzack, also 20, who began riding while in ninth grade, likes two horses for their very different personalities.
“My favorite horses to ride are Chip and William,” she said. “Chip has a funny personality and is always an exciting ride. William is super sweet; he loves being brushed and is really comfortable to ride.”
Salvia enjoys riding Kroaker, Saffron and Parker, but Kroaker is her personal favorite.
“Kroaker is a chestnut thoroughbred who has not only tested and challenged me from the start, but has taught me the most about moving forward through difficulties and not giving up,” said Salvia, 22, who started riding when she was 10. “He even helped me win my jumping class at our home show last year. Although I don’t own Kroaker personally, he will always hold a spot dear to my heart.”
Set for Success
Pietrzak has competed at other IHSA events and informal barn shows, but this will be her first regional event.
“I’m ecstatic,” she said. “I am looking forward to the challenge of competing at a higher level than I had previously.”
Salvia is most looking forward to testing her ability to prevail.
“I feel really grounded and happy when I am with my team, but occasionally on my own I doubt my abilities,” the Miller Place resident said. “I will really need to have the confidence in myself and emotional drive to succeed.”
Sofoklis is excited to cheer on her competing teammates and watching their classes.
“St. Joe’s Equestrian Team is super supportive and an overall amazing group of girls,” Sofoklis said. “I love being on such a supportive team and learning new things from my teammates!”
“Getting to be on a team with people who are like-minded truly makes such a difference,” she said. “Some of my fondest memories are from being a part of this team, and I’ve built close friendships I know I will have forever. The love and support I feel from everyone is unmatched.”
When Murphy began horseback riding as a first-year student on the Equestrian Team, she didn’t realize how important both riding and the team would become to her.
“I immediately took to riding, and it became and is my passion,” she explained. “I don’t know what I would do without the horses, my team or my coaches. They all push me to be the best version of myself. The coaches and barn are my safe place and have gotten me through tough points in my life, and I’m forever grateful for that.”
Going for the Gold
Each member of the team competes in their own areas:
- Salvia will compete in both Limit Hunter Seat Equitation Over Fences and Limit Hunter Seat Equitation on the Flat.
- Pietrzak will compete in Introductory Hunt Seat Equitation.
- Sofoklis will compete in 2B Novice Equitation on the Flat.
- Murphy will compete in the Walk, Trot class.
“It is so hard to narrow down all of the things I enjoy about horseback riding,” Salvia said. “There is truly nothing like the feeling of freedom and connection — of being able to experience it with an animal who doesn’t even speak the same language.”