SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. (June 22, 2011) - Longtime riding team head coach C.J. Law was featured in the latest issue of Sidelines magazine. A copy of article can be viewed by clicking here. It can be read in its entirety below.
In publication since 1988, Sidelines is devoted to the people and personalities that make the horse world exciting. Based in the winter capital of show jumping, polo and dressage, Sidelines is nestled firmly in the heart of the horse world. Sidelines follows its readers as they travel to various show circuits across the country and is the sponsor of dozens of major horse shows and events from Florida to California. This month's magazine focused on education.
Under the direction of Law, Mount Holyoke qualified for the IHSA National Championships for the third straight year and 20th time in program history this season. The Lyons grabbed third place overall, finishing just behind Centenary College, Skidmore College and St. Lawrence University.
One of the top coaches in the nation, Law has guided her program to three IHSA National Championships (1986, 2000, 2006) and four Tournament of Champions titles (1993, 1997, 2002, 2007) since taking over the reins of the program in 1984. Her teams have advanced to the National Championships 20 times, and three of her riders have earned national titles by capturing top honors in the Cacchione Cup Class (1990, 2002, 2010).
Law was named Horsewoman of the Year by Spur Magazine in 1997 and was also selected as one of its 20 most influential horse people in the country. She received the prestigious IHSA Lifetime Achievement Award for her innovative ideas promoting sportsmanship in 1998. Law founded the IHSA Senior Academic Achievement and National Horse Show Sportsmanship Awards.
In addition to her coaching duties at Mount Holyoke, Law has been a vital part of the College's Equestrian Center staff for over 20 years. As Riding Program Director, she oversees a physical education program with over 150 riders per week.
Laying Down The "Law": Sportsmanship & Horsemanship
As head coach of Mount Holyoke for the past 27 years, C. J. Law racked up an impressive record in the highly competitive Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. Her riding Lyons advanced as a team to 20 National Championship Finals, winning the top honors in 1986, 2000, and 2006. They harvested four Tournament of Champions titles (1993, 1997, 2002, 2007), and three of her riders earned the greatest individual award bestowed by the IHSA, the Cacchione Cup, in 1992, 2002, and 2010.
"We've had some real highs and lows. In 1985, I was privileged enough to come in second, my first year coaching, and I've learned a lot of lessons through the years," said C. J. "My first national win was a huge one. Getting a rider to the Cacchione level is a big deal, and I'm blessed to be part of my students' lives. Lindsay Sceats, who won the Cacchione Cup last year, is very representative of my riders. We have a lot of students who are high up academically. They're very competitive and work together well. It's a good mix.
"C.J.'s emphasis all along has been a balanced blend of sportsmanship and horsemanship. Her active involvement in IHSA includes serving on its board of Directors since 1986. She has been the Zone 1 chairperson and an organizer of the Zone 1 championship horse show since 1989. She's on the IHSA marketing committee.
In 1997, Spur magazine (sadly defunct) named C. J., Horsewoman of the Year and cited her as one of its 20 mos tinfluential horse people in the country. She created the IHSA Senior Academic Achievement Award.
"At Mount Holyoke, the equestrian team has the support of the campus, and the admissions office understands about riders even before they get to college," explained C. J. "It's really great for the students to know that the college supports the riding program.They know we're strong on academics, too. That's why I started the academic award. It's open to any senior student with a 3.5 GPA or higher."
The IHSA recognized C. J. with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998 for her innovative promotion of sportsmanship. She also founded the National Horse Show Sportsmanship Awards, one of three awards endowed by the Chu family in appreciation of their daughter's dedicated coach whose positive attitude and team/community-minded spirit continues to influence Mount Holyoke students.
"I think when you have a group of young athletes together and they're very competitive, you have to make sure that the students and coaches encourage everyone to work together for the overall goal," said C. J. "I like to be there for them, not just as their riding coach, but also as someone they can talk to. Many of these students are away from their families for months at a time. They come from all over the United States and from different countries. They know that I'm always there for them and that they can trust me." According to Sceats, Coach Law gives a pep talk to her team at the start of the show season. Horses always come first. No matter what kind of ride they have, they have to pat the horse, return it pleasantly to its handler and then take a time out to get roiling emotions under control again. Students must never ever take that bad ride out on the horse.
Many college equestrian programs depend on the good will of people who donate or loan horses. Some horses might be stiffer on one rein; others have a favored lead, and some are challenging to get in front of your leg. There's a lot to be said about the luck of the IHSA draw. When you travel to an away show, you don't know what you'll get.
"A lot of wonderful people donate horses and sometimes the boarders let us use their horses," said C. J. "That horse may not be the ride you were looking for, but students have to deal with whatever they draw. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I just make sure that my riders are really respectful to the horses and to the people who let us use their horses, especially if it's a school horse program in another barn. Sometimes school horses act differently when you have people there for a horse show. That's all part of the IHSA competition."
Equitation is the name of the IHSA game, but it's practical, to boot. The bottom line for the rider is getting the job done with the body parts in balance and in the correct position, whatever the horse might be doing.
"When I was at Averett University, I competed in IHSA myself in the open level, and I also trained my own horse to Intermediatein three-day eventing," said C. J., whose credentials are pretty impeccable. She was selected to train with Jack LeGoff when he was the United States team coach but gave up eventing when she had the first of her four children. Now, if there's any time to ride, it's mostly dressage or a trail ride at Camp Forest Acres (Maine), where she is Director of Riding during the summer.
"I do lots of things with my students that aren't just totally riding, and I give the team a lot of responsibility to put on quality shows so that they learn to work together," said C. J. "I want my higher levelriders to understand that even the lower level riders are just as important. It's hard to balance that, and I work really hard on it."
Part of 'laying down the Law' includes making sure that her riders don't get all wound up from various pressures in their academic and equestrian lives.
"I think that women now have to learn to balance many 'irons in the fire' – some are in business and have high-paying jobs but they want to continue with their hobbies and balance a family of some sort," said C. J. "I try to make sure they keep a positive perspective – the glass is half-full."
C. J. is also quick to point out that she herself keeps learning even after all these years. What she harvests in terms of her own experiences ends up influencing her riders. What goes around, comes around.
"When you have a team, you must work as a team and trust that you can depend on others to help you out when things get a bit rough," she explained. "We all have to learn that it's okay to ask for help."
It isn't the rosettes, trophies and titles that make a winner. It's heart. Just as C. J. recognizes hard work ethics and dedication in her Lyons, they respond to her total commitment to horses and helping students to achieve their goals.
"The students are young, but they're open-minded, and they inspire me to be better," said C. J. "If you truly work hard enough, you will succeed. You may need to ask for help along the way, but that's okay. Believe in yourself and you will get where you want to go."
Article written by Lauren R. Giannini