Athlete of the week: Berg ’16 catapults equestrian to second-place finish

Alisa Berg ’16 notches seven points in intermediate fences divison season debut

Staff Writer
Friday, November 13, 2015

Alisa Berg ’16 had a spectacular debut in the intermediate fences division on her way to a crucial first-place finish at the URI IHSA Show Saturday.

Still in search of a postseason berth, the equestrian team finished comfortably in second place at the University of Rhode Island IHSA Show last Saturday. The team benefitted from first-place finishes by two point riders, including co-captain Alisa Berg ’16.

Last weekend marked Berg’s first time competing in the intermediate fences division this season, and she had a spectacular debut, as she stepped up and secured seven key points for the team.

Berg treats horseback riding as a mix of art and sport. For her masterful display of artistry and athletics last weekend, Berg has been named The Herald’s Athlete of the Week.

Herald: What got you into equestrian?

Berg: I started when I was nine. I was one of those girls who loved horses when I was little, and my dad signed me up for a riding lesson to placate me. I loved it, so I kept doing it. Then I signed up for weekly riding lessons. Now here I am, 13 years later, still riding.

I actually grew up in the city, and it was not something a lot of people around me were doing. It’s one of those things where once people start, they get really into it, and it’s easy to get hooked on it.

Last weekend, you competed in intermediate fences for the first time. What was the reason for that, and what was your mindset?

Because one of our main intermediate fences riders was coming close to pointing out, we were looking to hold her for the postseason. So it came down to either another intermediate fences rider or me to represent the team. I had ridden novice fences before, but at intermediate, the course is more complex, and you are judged at a higher level. But I won, and it was really exciting.

What division do you usually ride in?

I’ve been riding intermediate flat all fall. But I’m close to pointing out, so I’m being held in that division. I probably won’t compete in intermediate flat unless we lose our chances at the postseason. The divisions I’m currently qualified in are intermediate flat and fences.

How is the preparation different for flats and fences?

We practice twice a week at least. We go to the barn, and our coach gives us a riding lesson. Every ride, we essentially start working on the flat because you have to warm the horse and yourself up.

The best way to think about fences is just flat with jumps in between. So we use the same principles but also have the extra challenge of the jumps. Then we do one or two warm-up jumps. Coach will set up jumps and random courses and have you go over it. If you mess up, you go over it again. So we just do a bunch of courses like that.

What kind of riding do you like best and why?

In high school, I did dressage, while here we do hunt seat equitation. In some ways, I miss dressage because I miss the ability to work with one horse and train it. The jumping is not something I spent a lot of time doing before college, but it’s fun and exhilarating.

Flat is easier for me just because of my background. I feel like I’m able to win more consistently in flat. But jumping is something I’ve certainly improved upon.

What’s the toughest part of riding?

At the collegiate level, definitely having a random horse at competitions. When you’re riding the same horse, you develop a working relationship with it. When you get on a horse at a show, you’ll have a one-sentence description. For example, maybe he’s stiff to the left. You don’t have the leeway in the show ring to figure that out.

You try to look as good as you can. It’s not your job in the show ring to train the horse; it’s to show you’re a good rider and you can do it effectively. You never know what you’re going to get.

Do you play any other sports, and if you could play another, what would it be?

Riding is very time-consuming, so I never had time to explore other sports. Field hockey, soccer and basketball are all fun. Polo would also be fun since it’s on horses, too.

— This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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