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April 6, 2017


Date: May 9, 2004

Event: 2004 IHSA National Championship

Result: South Carolina’s Tara Brothers wins Hunt Seat Individual Championship

Location: Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The 2016-17 season is the 20th anniversary of head coach Boo Major’s tenure at the University of South Carolina. As the Gamecocks prepare for the 2017 NCEA Championship event, will look back on some of the biggest victories of Major’s career, including today’s feature, remembering the 2004 IHSA National Championship, when Gamecock rider Tara Brothers won the hunt seat title.


Under the direction of head coach Boo Major, South Carolina became the first school to declare equestrian as a varsity sport in 2005. But prior to that milestone, Major was already at work recruiting the finest collegiate equestrians in the nation to Columbia and establishing her program as one of the best in the nation. One of those riders to commit to Carolina in the early days was Bend, Ore., native Tara Brothers.

A junior in 2003-04, Brothers had already won both equitation over fences and equitation on the flat competitions a half-dozen times heading into IHSA Nationals. Already regarded as perhaps the finest collegiate English rider in the nation, Brothers had just one step left: winning the ISHA hunt seat title, also known as the Cacchione Cup.

Brothers finished seventh in the first phase of the competition, equitation on the flat, but surged into the lead by posting the best jumping score of the tournament, a 95. She held on to her lead after the third segment, another jumping test, to become Carolina’s first-ever equestrian national champion.

One season later, Brothers completed her career by leading the Gamecocks to their first ever Varsity Equestrian National Championship. Brothers was the top flat scorer at the event and helped the Gamecocks begin a run of three-straight hunt seat national titles.


“Tara was extremely confident this past weekend. She was really on top of her game in all three parts of the competition. Her relaxed demeanor and ability to focus under extreme pressure allowed her to concentrate on the details of her performance that put her ahead of the others. There was no question she had won the National Title before the judges’ decision was announced- she was that good.”– Coach Major

“I had a lot of confidence going into the championship. I was very fortunate to draw wonderful horses. It was a very competitive group of riders.”– Tara Brothers


“I think it was a blessing in disguise that I was seventh after the flat phase. Only a few points separated me from the leaders, however, I didn’t have the pressure of holding the lead. I knew that if I allowed my body to do what it was trained to do I had the ability to make up the points needed. Going into the final round, I told myself I had to stay calm and make smart decisions. As long as I followed the process I have been taught throughout my riding career and didn’t shoot from the hip, I had a chance to hold the lead.”

“I am incredibly proud of the fact that I earned South Carolina’s first equestrian national championship. Some of the greatest equestrian athletes of our time have earned that same championship, and I was so honored to be among them. The University of South Carolina was relatively unknown among the collegiate equestrian community, and this helped put us on the map. I feel it gave legitimacy to the program and rewarded the athletic department for believing in an emerging sport. Without their support, I certainly would not have earned a championship, and the program never would have succeeded as it has.”– Tara (Brothers) Niculescu

“Tara was a great influence on our program. Not only was she able to go in and win the Cacchione Cup, she was also our captain for three years and a very influential person for our program. One of the things I liked about Tara was how she was unflappable. She could handle all different kinds of situations, and it wasn’t just riding situations. She was able to handle situations within the team in a very reasonable and understanding way.

“I still remember it like it was yesterday. She had to ride on the flat, she had to jump, and then there was a second jumping round. She wasn’t first going into the jumping part, but she was so lights out and so accurate in jumping that the judges really didn’t have much choice but to choose her as the champion.”– Coach Major