They gather from near and far, mostly far, and together they consistently form one of the top collegiate equestrian teams in the nation.
When top-ranked Georgia hosts No. 8 South Carolina on Friday, the Bulldogs could send out some of their five riders each from Georgia or Florida, or maybe some of their four riders from both California and Washington. Or maybe the three from New Jersey.
In all, Georgia has riders from 19 different states, plus one from Ontario, Canada, and another who calls Nassau, Bahamas, home.
I think when you have diversity we have everything from the West Coast to the East, to down in Florida and everything in between that it brings a broadening of perspective, which is really important and part of what college is about, coach said. But it also brings a great experience depth-wise to the riding skills, as well. I think its wonderful.
Junior is among the riders going to school far from home. The Western rider is from the Seattle suburb of Snohomish, Wash., and in her time at Georgia shes come to appreciate everything from the Southern hospitality to getting to know well so many teammates that have had different life experiences.
You get to know a lot of random little things about so many different places that my friends are from, Stroud said. My roommates, ones from New Jersey and the others from Michigan, so all three of us are from different parts of the country.
Sophomore is a Hunt Seat rider from Southport, Conn., about 50 miles northeast of New York, along the Long Island Sound. Tritschler said having so many riders from different places immediately brings them closer together, because theyre all far from home and experiencing things for the first time.
It makes it more comfortable, definitely, knowing that a large percentage of our team comes from the Northeast, like I do, or from far away on the West Coast, too, so were all kind of out of place in the beginning, Tritschler said.
Were all in the same boat, Stroud said.
During separate interviews with Tritschler and Stroud, talk of language and accents inevitably came up. Neither has much of a regional accent, but they certainly notice them among their teammates. In interviews 20 minutes apart, both brought up on their own , from Tallahassee, Fla.
Next to , I have no accent whatsoever, Tritschler said. Shes very sweet and she has a very strong accent well, to me, maybe not to you.
Ive never seen someone smile and be so positive 100 percent of the time, in my life. Ive never seen her shed her smile. I dont know if thats just an Annabeth thing or a Southern thing.
Said Stroud: When [Payne] gets nervous or cheers for people, her accent flourishes. Shes like the definition of the South, a Southern belle.
Who doesnt like gracious? Boenig, a Georgia native, asked, when speaking of Paynes accent and warm personality.
Dont think all this time in Athens isnt rubbing off on the riders who have five-hour flights or 16-hour drives home. Tritschler said shes not hanging out at Waffle House yet, but I definitely say yall. I dont say it as much as I text it, which is weird, I think. Its just faster, and my phone corrects to it.
And then I go home and people are like, youre talking with a Southern accent, but I dont think I am.
Equestrian teams are split between the English and Western disciplines of riding. Theyre two very different disciplines that seldom cross paths outside of collegiate competitions, Boenig said. That coming together, of riders from largely two different worlds, fascinates and excites Boenig more than bringing together riders from all over the country.
It would be like two sports that have a ball, say basketball and soccer, suddenly coming together, Boenig said. Both of them have a ball and theyre using it very differently, and all of a sudden theyre on the same team. Thats a little bit what English and Western are like. There are so many similarities, but they never compete in the same circuits.
To help bring everyone together, Georgia starts with housing. Our freshman dorms are two Western riders and two English riders, Boenig said. From that starting point, experiences are shared and tight-knit teams are built. As are long-term friendships.
I think the cool thing is seeing the wedding pictures afterwards, Boenig said, seeing these bridesmaids with English and Western riders, and you would have never thought the foreign worlds that they come from and for them to come here and develop these relationships, its incredible.
is the staff writer for the UGA Athletic Association and curator of the ITA Mens Tennis Hall of Fame. You can find his work at:Frierson Files. Hes also on Twitter:@FriersonFilesand@ITAHallofFame.