Sylvia de Toledo
Sept. 25, 2013
DALLAS (SMU) - The SMU equestrian team will open its 2013-14 campaign when it hosts New Mexico State on Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. CT at BuckBranch Farm.
Natalie Burton is set to start her fourth season with the Mustangs, and her first as the interim head coach for the program. Thursday also marks the first equestrian competition at SMU that will include a western team. The new discipline is just part of the reason the program brought 11 new freshmen to the Hilltop for the start of the 2013-14 season.
"Our goal when I started here was to get past the first round of the National Championships, which we have accomplished each of the last two years," Burton said. "At this point, with the team we have, we're looking to get to the finals. Now that we have a western team, and we are a strong combined team, there is no reason why we can't make it there this year."
With the addition of the new riders, integration of not only the two disciplines, but of the freshmen with the upperclassmen was important to the team heading into this inaugural western season.
"I've seen a lot of hard work and a lot of drive out of the girls leading up to the start of our season," Burton said. "There has been a lot of great teamwork, and a lot of great riding in practice. Our upperclassmen have been phenomenal in integrating the new riders. They have a big sister, little sister program. It's a huge goal of theirs to integrate the freshmen immediately, and not have that separation."
The Mustangs are coming off a second round appearance at the NCEA National Championships a year ago, and most recently an exhibition win at Baylor earlier this month. SMU's freshman class was responsible for all 11 of the Mustangs' points in the exhibition win.
"I think we take away a lot from that exhibition," Burton said. "Our final roster at this point is at least half freshmen, they are that strong. The returners have seen that, and have really upped their game the last couple of weeks. We are going to be that much stronger with that pressure in practice just to get into the lineup."
Following the New Mexico State clash, the Mustangs remain at home to take on UT Martin on Sunday at 10 a.m. CT at BuckBranch Farm.