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Lander Equestrian Team Member Has a Chance at a National Title

Ellison Poston and Lasca
Ellison Poston, a member of Lander University's equestrian team, poses with Lasca, one of university's Equestrian Center horses. Poston will compete in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association national championships in Kentucky in May.

Like other Lander University students, junior nursing major Ellison Poston has been busy studying for final exams as the close of the spring semester approaches. She is also spending time preparing for another final. Poston, a member of Lander's equestrian team, will compete in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association national championships in Lexington, Ky., May 5.

She qualified for the finals by finishing second in walk, trot, canter equitation at the IHSA Zone 5, Region 2 competition at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., April 2. In Lexington, she will be one of 16 riders representing 15 colleges competing in that same event. There is only one other student from a South Carolina school among the 16 competitors.

Poston explained that walk, trot, canter demonstrates three gaits of a horse. Riders compete as a group and are judged on how well they control the horse and their personal poise, horsemanship and ability to ride correctly. Riders do not ride their own horses; mounts are assigned on the basis of a random draw.

To prepare for the competition, she has been practicing two to three times a week under the guidance of Lander equestrian team coach Mary Hughston. "I also ride on my own as much as I can but, for right now, my focus is on my school work," she said.

The 22-year-old Poston is the daughter of Lander Equestrian Center director Nancy Poston and Atty. Kenny Poston of Hodges. She began riding horses at the age of 7 and is no stranger to competition, even before joining Lander's equestrian team. But she is understandably nervous heading into the national finals. "I'm excited and proud. I've worked hard but did not expect to get this far."

Hughston said, "Ellison adds a lot to Lander's equestrian program. Her hard work is paying off."

Lander's equestrian team has 27 riders, compared to eight last season.

The team had an impressive 2010-2011 season, finishing second out of six schools in western competition, and fifth out of 15 in the hunt seat category. Western team captain Casey Bennington, a junior from Dahlonega, Ga., was second in high point western rider standings. She also won her class in open reining at the western regional and qualified for the semifinals at West Texas A&M University in late March.

Senior Tiffany Graddick of Clinton was reserve champion in her class, intermediate horsemanship, and she qualified for the western semifinals where she placed eighth.