By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
SEC To Sponsor Equestrian Championship
Equestrian Coaches Talk About Joining The SEC
SEC Equestrian Frequently Asked Questions
SEC Equestrian History
ATHENS, Ga. – Since Georgia equestrian reached varsity status in the fall of 2002, head coach Meghan Boenig has directed the Bulldogs, helping them quickly become one of the most elite programs in collegiate equestrian. Boenig has led the Bulldogs to five National Collegiate Equestrian Association overall team national championships, including three consecutive from 2008-10.
With the addition of equestrian as the Southeastern Conference’s 21st sport beginning with the 2012-13 academic year, Boenig sat down with the SEC Digital Network to discuss a variety of topics related to her team and the sport of equestrian.
SEC Digital Network: What is your overall outlook for your 2012-13 team and what are your goals for this year’s squad?
Meghan Boenig: “We are always working on different things for every single year. What fits with everything for this year is that we are going for the extraordinary. We have been disciplined and have had consistency, and been very successful. But the last couple of years, we are not hitting the ultimate goals competitively that we want to do. We are going to focus on doing the little extraordinary things to, first and foremost, be the SEC Champions followed by being National Champions.”
SEC Digital Network: What does it mean for your program that equestrian is now an SEC Championship sport?
Meghan Boenig: “I think it is one more level of acknowledgement and endorsement, and broadens the pool of exposure to the best followed and most notable conference out there. I am so excited about the pool of people who will now be exposed to it, all of the fans and all the interaction. It makes all of the riders and the coaches extremely proud, especially because of all of the hard work and determination that these ladies have been putting forward. Hopefully adding SEC recognition behind it will add more legitimacy to it, which is something we are always striving for.”
SEC Digital Network: For fans of the SEC who may not be familiar with equestrian, why should they check out an equestrian competition this season?
Meghan Boenig: “One thing that is wonderful about equestrian and developing this in recent times is that you can watch a lot of other sports that are great and mirror them. Similar to gymnastics, we have four events that are rotating with two events going on at the same time. We have beautiful, magnificent animals piloted by very talented athletes. There is so much love and adoration from families who come watch and get caught up in the power in magnitude of jumping over fences or galloping to a sliding stop. It commands a lot of respect and fans really enjoy seeing that. We hold our events to a strict time schedule, so it works well with families. We also do so many things promotionally. Our sport is one where you can make noise and have fun cheering for your team. Fans are encouraged to hoop and holler and encourage that rider to go for a faster circle or a more aggressive rundown. The interaction between the fans and the athletes creates quite an atmosphere.”
SEC Digital Network: Your program has been so successful from the get-go and has maintained a consistent level of success over the years. What has been the key to doing that?
Meghan Boenig: “There are many factors, but the theme to it is the constant striving and pushing, and continually setting the target higher than what you see in front of you. We have surrounded ourselves with extremely good coaches and student-athletes; we are nothing without all of them. We recruit the best athletes and the best coaches to continue that legacy. We’ve been very, very fortunate. I think the reputation of Athens, the University of Georgia and the athletic program strengthens that.”
SEC Digital Network: You have done a lot of work with the Varsity Steering Committee to advocate for the sport of equestrian to the NCAA. What has your work consisted of and how do you continue to help advance the sport?
Meghan Boenig: “I think that a neat feature of the SEC coaches, not just myself, is that if you look through all of the NCAA equestrian programs, you find the most established and successful programs from the starting format to today in each of the four head coaches of the SEC. What a welcome pool we have here. I think it comes as no surprise to anybody looking at it from outside the SEC. It is quite unique, really. What we all work on, and myself particularly, is promoting the sport for these athletes and to the NCAA to continue to grow it. It is two-fold: the establishment of rules and fair play to create something that’s as fair as it can be; the other part is selling why the NCAA should choose this sport as the next one. We’re so fortunate that these athletes are a great sell – they are extremely hard-working, have great work-ethic and they have a great graduation rate. They have always had to work hard in school and with their horses and families to get to the point that they are at as collegiate athletes. They are incredible athletes. All of our work is in that direction.”