On Friday, one of the Fresno State equestrian team’s best riders will be representing the team in Wellington, Fla., at the fourth-annual Collegiate Equitation Challenge. The challenge is part of the Winter Equestrian Festival, an event hosted by the National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA).
Making her third appearance at the event, senior Kimberly HewsonBudnik was selected to compete in Equitation Over Fences.
“It’s a huge honor, because that’s one of the biggest horse shows in the United States right now,” HewsonBudnik said. “The fact that it’s my third year really means a lot to me. I’ve worked this hard and kind of stayed there, even though I didn’t have a lot of show experience like everybody else. The fact that I can do that makes me very proud of my accomplishments.”
HewsonBudnik feels her previous experience in the competition is a major stress relief for her.
“I feel like I’m going to be more comfortable with the format of the day,” she said. “I won’t feel stressed about when we’re riding or what we have to do next or anything because I’ve already been through it.”
Despite her previous experience, HewsonBudnik said she will not have much more of an advantage than anyone else. The horses that the riders use are donated for the event, and no one is able to ride them prior to the competition.
“There’s no home-field advantage whatsoever,” she said. “You do get bigger, more well known judges, so they can be a little harsher. Whereas here or competing at an NCAA (competition) at a school you get the kind of judges who understand what you’re doing. They will give you a little wiggle room, because they know that you don’t know the horses. Whereas when we’re doing it at a different horse show, I feel like they expect you to be just as good, even though you’re on a different horse.”
In the Bulldogs’ weekend home stand against Auburn, a close 8-7 loss for Fresno State, HewsonBudnik won both of her points in both Equitation on the Flat and Equitation Over Fences.
HewsonBudnik hopes for the best, though she will not go so far as to predict a win.
“It would be great to win, but I don’t want to go in expecting it or saying that I will,” she said.
“I want to just do my best and if I’m happy where I end up then that’s really what matters.”