Linden Hall coach Jennifer Merris-Dolk led the Lititz, PA school’s equestrian team to an undefeated season and a berth at the Interscholastic Equestrian Association finals in Syracuse, NY, where they finished seventh.
The Linden Hall School always has a good equestrian team, but this year was special. The 12-member varsity team went undefeated this season, earning a trip to the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) finals. The team ultimately placed seventh overall with individual riders also earning top ribbons.
“We usually are a strong team. We usually come in first, second or third,” said Linden Hall Director of Riding Jennifer Merris-Dolk.
Throughout the IES season, team member compete in hunt seat equitation on the flat and over fences at different experience levels, against other schools in the organization. Individual awards are given, plus points are tallied for team awards. There are IEA student-riders on over a thousand teams across North America.
“This is the first time in the riding team history that we have sat undefeated,” announced Merris-Dolk. “We have been ranked first in the zone frequently and seventh nationally. We’ve won quite a few shows during the seasons, but in there have always been a few shows that we have pinned second or third.”
The Linden Hall varsity team was undefeated throughout the IES regular season and went on through regional and zone competitions to make it to the National Championships held in Syracuse, NY. “It was great. We were in third place until the very last day,” Merris-Dolk said.
Linden Hall finished seventh overall in the Upper School Team Competition with 10 points. Individual ribbon winners from Linden Hall included: Team Varsity Intermediate Over Fences 2’ -5th. Maren Nordhoy; Team Junior Varsity Novice Over Fences Cross-Rails - 1. Caroline Myers; Team Varsity Open On The Flat – 6th Mackenzie Majeskie.
Linden Hall has competed in nationals for the last five years and is one of the top-ranked teams in their zone. On the team this year were four Junior Varsity and 12 varsity riders. “I really had a very good team. I had three seniors that had been with me since their freshman years, one since sixth grade,” Merris-Dolk said. “They worked very hard. I had a very strong returning team this year.”
At the competitions, the team riders must be selected before horses are drawn. The quality of the team was so good at Linden Hall this year that Merris-Dolk had good riders to choose from. “This year I really kind of played my entire team and tried to utilize them as much as possible,” Merris-Dolk said.
Merris-Dolk reported that all three of the Linden Hall team senior riders are going on to ride in college with one of them receiving a riding scholarship. “I’ve gotten really close to them over the past four years. Graduation this year will be bittersweet. I’m really proud of them. They’ve done a great job.
“When one of my riders graduates from Linden Hall, I believe they walk away with a lot of important lessons for life,” Merris-Dolk said. “What makes a girl a great equestrienne is dedication, passion, excitement. And all of those things are what makes a great adult—it makes them successful in life.”
Even though she is losing three of her varsity team members, Merris-Dolk believes she will still have a good team next season. “They’re ready to try and improve next year,” she said.