The following article was written by Tori Heck for The Red & Black. To view the original article, click here.
In October, junior Ali Tritschler was named both National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) and SEC Equitation on the Flat rider of the month, but a medical condition nearly kept her from competing in the sport she loves.
“I got a late start; I was sick my freshman year. I medically redshirted, so I kind of was late to the game,” Tritschler said, recalling her first year at University of Georgia.
She suffered from portal vein thrombosis. There was a blood clot in the vein connected to her liver. After being put on blood thinners, doctors told her she couldn’t ride horses, as a fall could be detrimental to her health.
Tritschler and the equestrian team wrapped up their fall season Nov. 16, but two years ago, her riding career faced an uphill climb.
Even after being cleared for her second semester at Georgia, Tritschler had a long way to go. She struggled with the transition from high school to college riding and with going from being an individual competing to being part of a team. One of the major differences between riding at the collegiate level and any other level is the addition of Equitation on the Flat as an event. This is not an event that is done at other levels, so it is an adjustment for all riders coming to college.
“It’s the part of the team that definitely took me a lot longer to get used to,” Tritschler said.
Tritschler trained on the flat starting the second semester of her first year at Georgia. Even so, she didn’t earn a spot competing in the event until the spring semester of her second year.
She attributes her success in the event to her coaches and older players who served as mentors to her. Head coach Meghan Boenig put Tritschler into two flat practices each week, and helped the recovering rider make up for lost time by pushing her to be her best. During her freshman year, a lot of upperclassmen helped Tritschler, taking her under their wing and showing her the ways of the event.
“One of our old teammates, she just graduated last year, Addy Cord, who has gotten many of these recognitions, she really helped me and taught me, and really taught me the ropes and everything,” Tritschler said
Together, Cord and Boenig pushed Tritschler in the event, even after being sick and struggling with the event at first.
“I think her and Coach [Boenig] only gave me room to succeed and not to fail,” said Tritschler.
Tritschler shared that she doesn’t feel like the time she spent as a red shirt hurt her. As a young rider coming out of industry, she was headstrong and expected more from herself than she was ready to take on when she got to Georgia. Being injured gave her the opportunity to take the back seat and be humbled while getting to serve her teammates and be a part of the team in a behind the scenes role.
“I was a barn manager a lot,” Tritschler said. “I sat and watched practices. I videotaped a lot of my teammates. I was just there and I had a different perspective, and I think that’s just made me overall appreciate the team a lot more because I’ve worked every aspect of it now.”
Just as older riders impacted and inspired Tritschler, she continues to be impactful to her teammates. Junior Maddie Fiorante remembers hearing about Tritschler before they began riding at Georgia together. Word had spread that Tritschler was a decorated athlete, and Fiorante remembers thinking that Tritschler was a “big deal.” After becoming teammates, what Fiorante had heard proved to be true.
“She’s very confident and she’s very versatile. She doesn’t get stressed about a horse she’s going to be on,” Fiorante said.
Outside of the sport, Tritschler and Fiorante are friends and roommates, and Fiorante shared that she finds Tritschler to be just as valuable as a friend as she is as an athlete.
“She would do anything for anyone, especially her friends,” Fiorante said. “If we were in public and I was like, ‘I need your pants,’ she’d strip for me. She would do anything for me.”
Evidently, her coaches, teammates and friends are not the only one who took notice of Tritschler.
Rider of the Month awards from the NCEA and SEC are what all riders at the collegiate level strive for. The two awards Tritschler received in October were not only her first monthly awards in college, but a culmination of dedication, overcoming adversity and working with coaches and teammates to improve.
“To get those recognitions in flat just really means a lot because it proves how hard I’ve been working and how well my team has been supporting me,” she said.