It was all about the numbers at the 41st Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships, May 1-4, at the Pennsylvania Farm and Exposition Center in Harrisburg.
For Centenary College (NJ) coaches Michael Dowling and Heather Clark, it added up to the third Collegiate Cup High Point Hunter Seat Team Championship in six years (2009, 2011, 2014): “Our secret weapon? Teamwork. We’ve a special group, from volunteers to riders, as great in horsemanship as sportsmanship. We brought twice as many horses as riders to Nationals. Everyone helped in this success.”
Open Hunt Seat rider Kathryn Haley, who was integral to Centenary’s 2011 Collegiate Cup win, was the team’s Harrisburg keystone, winning reserve in Collegiate Cup Open Equitation Over Fences and placing fourth in Collegiate Cup Open Equitation on the Flat.
“Second place in Team Fences was amazing,” said Haley, who was first to go and set the score (84) to catch before placing second after the ride-off. “It was a great one to end on; we did really well.” After graduation, Haley will take her business administration degree and minor in equine studies to work with Stacia Klein Madden’s Beacon Hill Show Stables Inc. “She’s developed into a great professional,” said coach Dowling. “We’re excited for her.”
For coach Bob Story and his College of Charleston (SC) Collegiate Cup Reserve Champions, Harrisburg was about coming full circle: “Where else can a Walk-Trot rider compete in a national championship? I love this organization’s inclusiveness. Thirty years ago I qualified my first team, for Harrisburg, and have qualified 25 more teams since then. Our new college president has made a huge commitment to our team and we appreciate it. This is our third Reserve. We’ll win it yet.”
For AQHA Trophy Western Team champions Ohio State University, and coaches Ollie and Debbie Griffith, it marked OSU’s 10th IHSA national team title and struck a personal chord. Their son, and defending AQHA High Point Rider, Austin Griffith, won the National Reining Horse Association Open Reining title and was Reserve overall in AQHA High Point Rider standings.
“Making double digits has been a long time coming,” coach Griffith said. “This win is the best. Austin told us before the show that he didn’t care about anything except helping win a team title for me and Debbie. It’s a pretty awesome feeling to be here for this and for our family.”
Completing the equation were coaches Clark Bradley and Cindy Morehead, whose University of Findlay team rode OSU hard through the points race to finish with the AQHA Trophy reserve championship, and assure that Ohio (home of the American Quarter Horse Congress) would be welcoming both the 2014 AQHA Trophy and Reserve IHSA Western Teams.
“It all fell into place,” said Bradley, whose team had four freshmen. “Our students ride five days a week, which makes a difference.”
2014 USEF Cacchione Cup winner Alexandra Carlton (University of Vermont) credited UVM coach Madeleine Austin with improving her flatwork: “I was never very good on the flat. It’s still getting better.” It was enough for Carlton to win the approval of judges Mark Rosser and Scott Hoffstetter.
“The hand gallop separated first and second-place,” said Hoffstetter. “She started to increase her pace when she landed from the previous fence. She showed us confidence in seeing the jump farther back and taking some pace to it, which brings the level of difficulty up.”
Carlton, a sophomore from Madison, CT, trains with Kristi Smith and Mark Jungherr at her mother Bernadette Keyes’ Cedar Brook Farm. “I had a fancy horse. For the hand gallop, I want to show off a little, and we did.”
Reserve Cacchione Cup champion Emily D’Alessandro, of St. Lawrence University (NY) called her “great draw,” Centenary’s Zanga, her own champion: “This was my first time qualifying. I never expected to get this far.” Centenary’s Kathryn Haley was third.
Michael Kocher (Savannah (GA) College of Art and Design), was fourth and also received the EquestrianCoach.com Achievement of Excellence Award. Bernie Traurig, of EquestrianCoach.com, and judges Hofstetter and Rosser selected the winner based on performance and goals in the sport. The award includes an apprenticeship with equitation trainer, Karen Healey.
“This is my last year, so the only thing I wanted was to help the team win,” said Austin Griffith, grinning, “We got ‘er done.” The OSU senior made his intentions clear from the start, winning the team’s first points on Friday in AQHA Open Reining Pattern.
Reining classes forecast where AQHA Trophy contenders would show their mettle. On Saturday, West Texas A&M University’s ‘Pretty Woman,’ Julia Roberts, showed her sliding power, breaking a tie in the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Open Reining Pattern with Ashley Winters (Univ. of Findlay).
Roberts also faced a tie, against Griffith, for AQHA High Point Western Rider. After reviewing rail scores by judges Bob Kail and Lynn Palm, Roberts was named 2014 champion, Griffith reserve. The WTAMU senior, who is graduating with a degree in Equine Industry Business Management, said it was an “amazing” end to her year. “I couldn’t feel more blessed.”
Following IHSA Nationals, a tentative list of invitees for the AQHA Collegiate Challenge, November 19-20, in Oklahoma City, OK includes Roberts, Griffith, Kaitlin LeBlanc (Univ. of Findlay), Ariel Herrin (Middle Tennessee State Univ.), Emily Dean (Purdue Univ.), Michelle Hustad, (St. Andrews Univ.), Samantha Kirby (SUNY-Oswego) and Allison Board (Univ. of Kentucky).
Cazenovia College’s 15.3hh gelding, Chop Chop, and Martina Morrel’s reiner, Petunia, were named Hunter Seat Horse of the Show and Western Horse of the Show, sponsored by SmartPak. High Point Horse of the Show, sponsored by Triple Crown Nutrition and including a ton of feed to each winner, went to Skidmore College’s 16hh bay hunter gelding, Leroy, and St. Andrews University Western mount, Zoey. IHSA National Horse Show Sportsmanship Awards, and jackets sponsored by the Chu family, went to Rutgers University coach Kelly Francfort, SUNY-Oswego rider Dan Moltion, and “ultimate volunteer,” IHSA founder, Bob Cacchione, who was moved to tears by the unexpected recognition.
After judging her first IHSA Nationals, Palm, the renowned clinician and trainer whose name became synonymous with that of AQHA Superhorse partner, Rugged Lark, summed it up: “I loved the spirit of the riders and respect for the horses. That’s an equation for equine careers. The quality of horses was very good. There were some we were fighting over wanting to take home with us!”
Hoffstetter agreed. “I love the camaraderie and horse quality. There’s that feeling, even if you didn’t ride the best horse, you did your best for your team. Parents, a college with an IHSA team is worth the money!”
The 2015 IHSA National Championships will be in West Springfield, MA, to host the top 25 college equestrian teams and more than 450 individual collegiate riders. Find full results and more information about IHSA at www.ihsainc.com.