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Oct. 1, 2009

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina equestrian team will travel to Auburn, Ala. today as the Gamecocks get set to compete against the Auburn Tigers tomorrow at 3 p.m. CDT. Friday’s competition will be held at the Auburn Equestrian Center.

“We’re very excited about Friday’s conference opener against Auburn,” said South Carolina head coach Boo Major. “Auburn is a very competitive team and their riders always compete at a high level, and we’re expecting no less out of them this weekend. We’ll be up against a team that’s as tough as any that we’ll face this season, so it’s up to our riders to compete at an equally high level, and we certainly have the talent to do so.”

Since both teams use the host school’s horses for competitions, equestrian programs across the country have started to look for ways to offset the home field advantage. Major and Auburn head coach Greg Williams agreed that South Carolina would select and hire the judges for Friday’s competition and that the favor would be returned to the Tigers in the spring when the two teams meet in Blythewood.

“We’re experimenting with this, and coach Williams and I believe if this works, other schools across the country will follow us,” Major said. “Auburn is the only school that has agreed to do this with us, so we’re really hoping it is something that can balance the level of competition for everyone.”

On the hunt seat side, South Carolina’s riders in the equitation over fences event will be Paige Dekko, Kimberly McCormack, Eleanor Kunsman, Nicole Bourgeois, and Megan Massaro. In equitation on the flat, Colvin Hedgepeth, Kimberly McCormack, Carly Babcock, Alex Haskell, and Massaro will be the Gamecocks’ riders.

“I think that Meg Massaro is always very competitive in both hunter seat events, and we’ll be turning to her and our other two seniors in Eleanor and Nicole to help lead the girls on Friday,” Major said.

Over on the western side, the Gamecocks’ riders in horsemanship will be Hailey Thornton, Taylor Singmaster, Maggie Fortune, Amy Biffly, and Emily Bookwalter. In reining, riding for South Carolina will be Audrey Jewell, Annie McDonald, Amanda Pope, Lydia Roof, and Chloe Gray.

The Gamecocks are 0-1 after losing the season opener to TCU while Auburn is 2-0 with victories against TCU and Southern Methodist. South Carolina’s next competition will be Friday, Oct. 23 when the Gamecocks host Georgia at 2 p.m. in Blythewood.