SIU student heads to horse show nationals

By Gus Bode

Equestrian team member competes at highest level

The infinite amount of two- and three-hour days at the stables spent grooming, training and feeding, not to mention the amount of money spent, has all become worth it for Sheila Gallery, a member of the SIUC Equestrian Team who has qualified for the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championship Show this weekend.

“As far as intercollegiate riding, it’s as high as you can go,” said Jennifer Whitfield, president of the SIUC Equestrian Team. “She is competing against the best intercollegiate riders in the nation.”

Advertisement

Gallery, a junior from Libertyville studying history, will be competing against 17 other women in the Open Equitation on the Flat division of the tournament, which is the highest level a rider can reach.

“It’s pretty exciting for me,” Gallery said. “Qualifying for anything on the national level is really exciting.”

She will be judged on the her heel’s position, her upright body posture and her hands and arms as she controls the horse’s walk, trot and canter. Participants in her class choose the name of the horse they will ride out of a hat to ensure their skills are put to the test.

“You are on a horse you have never ridden before, so they can see who can ride and who can’t,” Gallery said. “They are seeing if I can handle the horse and look good.”

Appearance is essential, and therefore the outfit is very important. Gallery must be sure her outfit is clean and her boots are polished.

“A uniform that you have to have just to compete easily can cost a couple hundred dollars,” said Whitfield, a senior from Carterville studying visual communications. “It’s not a cheap sport.”

To qualify for nationals, Gallery had to tally up at least 28 points throughout the year’s competitions to move on and compete in the regional tournament. After regionals, she went on to place second in the Zone tournament, which then made her eligible her for the IHSA National Championship Show

Advertisement

“Sheila rides quite a bit,” Whitfield said. “Don’t let her kid you; she’s very modest about herself. She works very hard for what she has accomplished.”

Though Gallery is competing on an individual level, she is still representing SIUC in the show, Whitfield said.

“It helps promote our school and team,” Whitfield said. “It’s really motivating for the rest of the team.”

The team, which has 25 members, is close and goes to tournaments to help support one another, Whitfield said. There are a couple members planning on attending nationals to support her.

“It’s really awesome,” Gallery said. “I used to play soccer, but I’ve never felt the team spirit that I have here with the equestrian team. The girls are really supportive.”

The tournament, which will take place in Sunbury, Ohio, from May 5 to 8, is the first national intercollegiate tournament for Gallery, though she has competed in two other national tournaments previously.

“My horses are basically my job,” Gallery said. “Even though I am majoring in history, I am hoping to make money in the horse business.”

She has three horses, Eddie, Whiskey and Chester. Though she thought about selling Eddie, she said she has bonded too much with her horses to sell them.

“Horseback riding is really stress relieving,” Gallery said. “It’s really good for the soul.”

Gallery always thought horses were cool while growing up, but she started riding horses when she moved to Illinois about 11 years ago. She moved down the street from a barn and was able to convince her parents to let her take lessons.

“I have really nice parents,” Gallery said. “I’m really lucky. They’re really supportive of the whole thing.”

In appreciation for their support, Gallery hopes to do well at the tournament. Her goal is to place in the top 10, which would earn her a ribbon.

“For some people, you’re just happy to get there,” Whitfield said. “But I think she has a great chance at winning.”

Reporter Laura Teegarden can be reached at [email protected]

Advertisement