Wong has strong performances in collegiate debut

The collegiate equestrian season is off to a promising start for Bahamian Peyton Wong.

The University of Tampa sophomore made her season debut last weekend, taking part in the first show of the season for Zone 5, Region 5 of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA).

Wong made an immediate impression on the judges, competing in four different classes in the Open Division and winning a ribbon in each against stiff competition.

The show took place over two days at Kimberden Farm in Ocala, Florida, and featured hundreds of riders from 11 teams across the southeast United States. Other than the University of Tampa, the schools included the University of Florida, the University of Central Florida, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), the University of South Florida, Florida State University (FSU) and Wong’s University of Tampa team among others.

Wong rose to the occasion, placing fifth and sixth in her classes on Saturday. She then improved to place second in the Open Varsity Under Saddle and fifth in the Open Varsity Over Fences on Sunday. She praised her teammates and the team’s coach, Karey McGee, being supportive of each other.

Despite her strong showing, the Bahamian noted that there is room for improvement.

“Even though I didn’t place as well as I hoped, I felt that I rode well and learned a lot,” she said. “The Open Division is the highest division and is the hardest, so I have to continue to improve and get stronger as a rider.”

In IHSA competition, the horses are furnished by the host colleges and are randomly assigned to riders by drawing lots. No schooling or preparation is permitted, a format designed to challenge the horsemanship of the athletes. This posed no challenges for Wong, who was captain of the Queen’s College equestrian team at home in Nassau, The Bahamas. She rode in the Bahamas Interscholastic Equestrian League (BIEL) shows which follow a similar, horse-drawn format.

“The Bahamas Interscholastic Equestrian League was founded for this very purpose, to allow non-horse owners access to quality competition, and to prepare our riders for the collegiate riding format,” noted Equestrian Bahamas President Cathy Ramsingh-Pierre. “Wong’s success speaks to her dedication and talent, but also to the value of BIEL as a development path for our school-age riders.”

The opening of the 2021-2022 BIEL season will take place at Mariposa Farms on October 30. Spectators are welcomed but COVID-19 protocols such as required masks and social distancing will be strictly enforced.

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