Centenary College charged into the lead with consistent rides during the May 5 opening day of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championship at the Kentucky Horse Park. Centenary (N.J.) finished the day with 15 points, and Skidmore College (N.Y.) and St. Andrews Presbyterian College (N.C.) trail behind with 8 points each.
Centenary’s Brendan Williams started the day off well for his team, earning a second-placed finish and 5 points in the Collegiate Cup novice equitation over fences class. Natasha Klingenstein and Jessica Pabst followed suit, taking red ribbons in the team novice and intermediate flat, respectively.
Other notable rides in the Collegiate Cup competition included Jordan Koivu’s winning round aboard Skidmore College’s Amitelli, which earned St. Lawrence University (N.Y.) 7 points, placing them in third for the day in Lexington. Koivu was proud to represent her school, as the Dartmouth, Nova Scotia-native chose St. Lawrence for both its academics and riding.
“It was important that my school had the academic program that I wanted, but I also wanted to find a school with a good riding team and a good reputation,” said Koivu, 22.
Taking Pains To Make It Work
Winning the individual open equitation over fences was extra special for the University of Kentucky’s Ali Cibon, because she was just happy to have made it to the Kentucky Horse Park this morning.
“I spent last night in the hospital because I have a major blood clot,” said Cibon, 22, as she placed ice on her right ankle. “I haven’t ridden at all this past week, and I’ve been getting infrared therapy on it three times a day."
Conveniently, RevitaVet Therapeutic Systems which specializes in infrared light therapy for both humans and equines, has a booth set up at the arena, and owner Tom Neuman, Phoenix, Ariz., has been administering her treatments between classes.
Even though her leg was “hurting really badly,” Cibon, Bannockburn, Ill., put in a first round on Goucher College’s (Md.) Gandhi to receive a call back for additional testing as one of the top four riders in the class.
“I couldn’t have picked better horses. I was really lucky,” said Cibon, who rode Virginia Intermont’s Sampson in her second round. “I’m glad we got to ride the course again. The second time out I was more aware. I rode some of the bending lines differently. It gave me another chance to improve on my first ride.”
A senior studying agricultural economics and business and a four-time winner at IHSA National Championships in her four years as a Wildcat, Cibon will push aside her pain and return Friday and Saturday in the Collegiate Cup open equitation over fences and on the flat, as well as ride in the Cacchione Cup. She placed eighth in the 2010 Cacchione Cup, and is excited about the chance to improve that placing this year.
Out Of College, But Not Out Of Practice
Julie Connors returned to the Kentucky Horse Park with the same precision as last year. Today, the 21-year-old won the individual novice over fences; last year, she won the Collegiate Cup novice equitation over fences. Though she now has clinched back-to-back blues, her road to the 2011 championship was drastically different from last year.
Connors graduated from Centenary in January, so she has been away from her teammates and coaches Michael Dowling and Heather Clark for the past few months. However, Connors has been able to fit riding into her post-college schedule, so she was prepared for the competition. She piloted Virginia Intermont’s Henry to the win with a score of 86, ending her college riding career on a strong note.
“I’ve been [to IHSA Nationals] three times, and it’s been really fun. But it’s time to move on to something new,” said Connors.
Centenary’s Secrets For Success
Centenary saw success in the individual divisions as well, with Brittany Cunnane and Kathryn Haley seeing their year’s worth of hard work finally pay off. Both girls credited their coaches for their winning performances.
Cunnane won the intermediate flat aboard Templeton, of Cazenovia College (N.Y.), and though her road to the competition has been painful, she admitted it paid off.
“We have had some pretty strenuous lessons, but Michael and Heather have gotten us really strong,” said Cunnane, a junior.
Freshman Haley was nervous, but as a former "Big Eq" competitor, she's no stranger to high-pressure situations.
“I think that at any finals you have nerves and you just have to deal with it,” she said.
Haley agreed with Cunnane about the intensity of the Centenary riding program. “The coaches both yell at me to carry my hands evenly. And today, a big thing was to work the ring so you would get noticed,” said Haley, 18.
However, she knows that her coaches and teammates are supportive no matter how she places. “We’re like one huge family, and I’m so glad I’m a part of it,” said Haley.
The Lucky Coat
Skidmore College seniors Alexandra McGuire and Hanae Kimura share a show-ring superstition. The girls have shared the same coat during IHSA competitions since they were freshmen. McGuire, a team co-captain, won the individual walk/trot/ canter class last year in the coat. This year, the mathematics and computer science major clinched the team novice flat class.
Her teammate, Kimura, has also done her share of winning in the coat. She won the individual walk/trot/canter division as a freshman, and this year she won the individual novice hunter equitation on the flat. Because the show coat is actually owned by the college and the girls are graduating, underclassmen are scrambling to be the next in line to wear the fortuitous frock.
Competition resumes tomorrow.
Complete IHSA results can be found at IHSAinc.com.