St. Lawrence University senior captain Caitlin Doocy ’19 was awarded the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association National Championship Rider Sportsmanship Award at IHSA Nationals.
Doocy, a two-year captain for the Saints, won the intermediate fences class in the Hunter Seat competition and was seventh in intermediate flat to score 13 of the Saints’ 30.5 points at the national championship show. She is the first St. Lawrence rider to earn the award.
Doocy has a history of success at IHSA Nationals. As a first-year, she was the reserve champion in novice fences in team competition, then won an individual national championship in novice fences as a sophomore. She was third in team competition in intermediate fences last year, and her two first-place finishes (intermediate fences and intermediate flat) at the Zone 2 Championships in April 2019 helped propel the Saints to their ninth consecutive appearance at IHSA Nationals.
“You wish that every senior could finish their career the way that she did,” says Mary Drueding, director of St. Lawrence’s riding team.
But Doocy didn’t win the award based solely on her performance in the ring. The award caps perhaps the most challenging year for St. Lawrence riding in Drueding’s 23-year tenure. Earlier this spring, several horses at the Elsa Gunnison Appleton Equestrian Center tested positive for the EHV-1 virus, an illness which can result in severe neurological damage and even death.
St. Lawrence was unable to host the IHSA Zone 2 Region 2 Championships, and members of the riding team were called on for round-the-clock care of the horses, rarely having time to practice as regionals, zones, and nationals approached. After nearly six weeks, the quarantine was lifted on April 17.
“Thanks to good horsemanship, some good fortune and a lot of support from the University, the community and the team, we’ve come out on the other side with a positive outcome,” Drueding says. “Caitlin persevered this year through a very tumultuous spring. Not only was she trying to keep the team’s spirits up and keep us competitive, but she was also organizing the temperature taking of the horses in the morning, the temperature taking at night, and large rally cries on the weekends to build isolation protocols for the horses in the barn. It really never stopped.”
Drueding has won two national team championships in her tenure, and she will cherish the memories of those seasons for the rest of her life. But, this season will also stick out, albeit for a very different reason.
“We’re bonded in a different way,” says Drueding. “We shared something at a very different level. Somehow, they just kept going and handled each challenge graciously. I’m very proud of all of them, but particularly proud to have had such gritty seniors who never lost faith in the experience as they got to the end. Caitlin earned the sportsmanship award, but it’s also representative of the whole group. Caitlin is a special person, but she had a lot of special athletes to represent.”