MagazineNewsHorse SportsHorse CareCOTH StoreVoicesThe Chronicle UntackedMarketplaceDates & Results
 
May 15, 2009

Centenary Sweeps IHSA Nationals Top Honors

Centenary College poses with their National Championship ribbons.

Lindsay Clark may have brought a touch of good luck with her to Centenary College (N.J.), from her family’s New Paltz, N.Y., Lucky C Stables. She helped add four more impressive Cs to the school’s resume—the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association’s Collegiate Cup team championship and the coveted USEF/Cacchione Cup for her individual performance as top open rider.

“We were really consistent. Every one of our riders was really strong,” said Michael Dowling, who was previously Centenary’s assistant coach and took over the head coach position from Andrea Wells this year.

“We have 60 riders on the team, so we have a lot of talent and depth to pick from. Our captains were so strong this year, and there was a terrific sense of camaraderie on the team.

“Our team is very young. We had no seniors on this team—more than 50 percent were freshman,” noted Dowling of his squad, which also boasted members Ali Krecker (fourth in intermediate flat), Julie Conners (fifth in novice fences), Mary Bogatko (walk-trot-canter) and Victoria Rosenthal (walk-trot).

This Collegiate Cup comes as the first in 30 years for Centenary, which last won the prize in consecutive years in 1978 and ’79, the same year the IHSA joined forces with the American Quarter Horse Association to welcome Western competition to the national championship.

The defending Collegiate Cup champions, the University of Kentucky, got off to an early lead on the first day of the competition, held April 23-26 at Middle Tennessee State University’s Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro.

Five-time champs Skidmore College (N.Y.) were close behind, and Centenary and University of Findlay (Ohio) tied for third. Centenary’s intermediate fences rider, Missy Cohen, added a first place and 7 points to their tally on Friday to bring their team within a point of Kentucky going into the final day.

With several teams within striking distance of the Cup on Saturday morning, all eyes were on the team open over fences class, which would decide the outcome. Clark came into the class strong, standing on top for the Cacchione Cup ride-off, having scored 90 on her first round the day before.

Unfazed by the pressure, Clark turned out a 93. Judges Susan Ashe and Mindy Minetto didn’t need to see any more and placed her on top of the class, without subjecting her to the additional testing faced by the rest of the top six riders.

Though the University of Kentucky team wasn’t able to add anything to their tally that morning, their performance over the previous two days earned them second place overall.

Virginia Intermont’s open rider, Brittany Denton, already brandishing the individual open over fences championship, placed second for her team to bump them into a tie for third overall with Stanford University (Calif).

A Cool Cucumber

Her horse draws turned out to be another “lucky C” for Clark, who rode Hollins University’s (Va.) Tres Corona for both of her 90-plus point rounds.

The former jumper’s maneuverability helped her take chances with inside turns on the course, and drawing him again eliminated some of the guesswork for Saturday morning.

“I was really excited when I drew Corona yesterday because one of my good friends goes to Hollins [and knows him],” she said. “My second horse for the [Cacchione Cup ride-off] test was also a Hollins horse. They’re great and so helpful with giving you information about the horses.”

Some riders would be a ball of nerves or perhaps lose focus, but Clark went right back into the ring after posing for pictures and accepting the onslaught of teary hugs and congratulations from her teammates for securing the Collegiate Cup win for Centenary to successfully defend her top rank in the Cacchione Cup.

“Lindsay is a very cool cucumber. She’s an absolute competitor. She has that edge, and she came into today feeling very strong. It felt like the day for her,” said Dowling. “Her confidence has really escalated, which is something we have worked on, but with that kid, this is not a surprise.”

Clark sat comfortably on top of the Cacchione Cup standings after the jumping and flat phases, and her teammates tried to keep it a secret, to avoid stressing her too much. “It’s hard when you do a class one day and have to wait until the next day to work-off. I work better under pressure,” she said. “Nobody wanted to tell me where I stood, but I wanted to know!”

Clark had already shown her resilience earlier in the season, when she duked it out with last year’s Cacchione Cup winner, James Fairclough from Drew University (N.J.), for their region’s nationals berth. She bested him by 1 point—two days after a hospital visit for a concussion following a fall. “It was just this silly fall, but a couple of minutes later I asked if I’d fallen off, so they took me to the hospital,” she recalled. “I figured as long as I could remember the course, it would be OK!”

Clark, 20, transferred to Centenary this year from Bridgewater College (Va.), where she had also ridden IHSA, placing third individually at nationals last year in open over fences.

“I almost went to Centenary as a freshman, but I wanted to go somewhere in the south. Bridgewater has a great team and great classes, but it was very small and I kept finding myself alone on campus on the weekends,” said Clark, a business major with a management concentration. “I wanted to go somewhere closer to home. I’ve known Michael for a long time, so it was really exciting when he took over as head coach last summer.”

Dowling and Susan Clark, Lindsay’s mom and the coach of the State University of New York-New Paltz IHSA team, have been friends for about 10 years, which made for an easy transition to Centenary. Susan not only supported Lindsay at nationals, but she also coached the SUNY New Paltz intermediate rider, Amanda Bender, to fourth place in the individual intermediate fences championship.

“Ever since my mom started coaching [IHSA] 10 years ago, I’d go to the horse shows and watch the open riders. I thought they were so incredible, and it was something I thought I’d never achieve at that time,” said Clark, who in addition to her mother, has trained with Kip Rosenthal and Neal Shapiro.

Herding Cats


Denton, of Atlanta, Ga., maintained her third place in the Cacchione Cup to add to her individual open fences win and wrap up her last year at Virginia Intermont, where she majored in psychology.

“She has a natural ability and natural talent—you don’t really teach her, you just keep her on the right path,” said coach Eddie Federwisch. “[In 2007, when the Virginia Intermont team won the Collegiate Cup], she was on fire. Last year was not quite as consistent. We brought horses this year, and she had some weak schooling on some of them, which I think was a good thing and helped to get her focused.

“I don’t push her as hard as I do some other riders,” he added, laughing. Handling her is like herding cats!”

“I psyche myself, out and Eddie psyches me out. I’ve known him my entire life, and he’s very active and entertaining and very nervous. I always give him heart attacks when I ride,” said Denton. “I changed the plan while on course and rode a line in five strides instead of the six we’d talked about. There was only one more time I had to freak him out.”

Denton was also fortunate to draw Ghandi, a big bay gelding from Goucher College (Md.), for her winning class, and then pull him again for Phase 1 of the Cacchione Cup, scoring 84 and 88 with him.

“Ghandi is an amazing, phenomenal animal. I had Ladino [a 17.1-hand gelding from Sweet Briar College in Virginia] for the work-off. He was enormous—I felt like a pea on top of him, but he was wonderful,” said 5'2" Denton. “These riders are the best of the best. I came here to do well; I didn’t come here expecting to win, because you just never know.

“Lindsay Clark is one of the sweetest girls,” she added. “I hadn’t met her before, but I had the chance to talk to her in the line-up. She’s stellar—very nice, very good. It’s nice to know someone’s nice and down-to-earth if they have to beat you!”

Denton plans to be back next year to ride in the alumni classes and wants to continue her involvement with the IHSA as much as possible. “I love the IHSA!” she proclaimed. “Where else can a kid who started riding a year ago have an opportunity like this to be a really big deal? It’s like being part of a family.”

IHSA Spirit Exemplified


Margaret Wiggin, a senior at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, personified the unique qualities Denton praised in the IHSA. Wiggin, who has loved horses her whole life but had limited exposure to them as a child, joined the team in 2008 to learn how to ride. She walked out of the Miller Coliseum as the individual walk-trot national champion.

“This means everything to me,” said a clearly moved Wiggin, amidst a crush of equally emotional teammates, warning each other not to hug her too hard.
 
“I broke my rib coughing last week, which is embarrassing,” she admitted. “I’ve been sore, but it’s been better the past few days. I couldn’t ride for three days the week before we came.”

Jerry Schurink, director of the school’s equine studies program, stressed Wiggin’s accomplishments in the classroom, as an animal science major hoping to attend veterinary school, in addition to her development as a rider. “This past year, she just moved up to Intermediate II in our program. She’s had a really rapid ascent. We dropped her into the deep end, and she’s risen to the top,” he said. “She’s a superstar.”

Nationals developed into a definite goal for her this year, as Wiggin emerged as the backbone of her team during the course of the season—placing second at their season opening show and first at every competition thereafter—all from the back of a walk-trot mount. “Most teams depend on their open riders,” said team captain Kate Lawrence, “and we depend on her.”

IHSA Nationals Tidbits

•    As the only hunt seat competitor for St. Andrews Presbyterian College (N.C.), which fielded a full Western squad at this year’s nationals, Robert Jacobs “had the entire school’s hunt seat program resting on his shoulders!” joked coach Peggy McElveen.
         
Jacobs, a sophomore majoring in politics with a business minor, rose to the occasion, earning the individual intermediate over fences title with one of his school’s own horses, Glennfiddich.
         
Jacobs, of Temple Hill, Md., started riding about seven years ago but competed in his first USEF-rated show with St. Andrews last year. After competing novice flat last year, this was his first year jumping in the IHSA.
         
“It’s been so exciting to see him develop the past two years,” said McElveen. “Many men have a strong upper body and can tend to have a more forceful ride, and he’s really learned to soften.”

•    Having finished grad school and started her career as an accountant in Columbus, Ohio, Jennifer Hutson, 23, joined forces with her former roommates/teammates to compete as alumni this year for the Miami University of Ohio.
         
The 2007 graduate, who’d earned top-10 placings at nationals multiple years as an open rider, earned her first Collegiate saddle and national championship title in the alumni over fences class.
         
“My college roommates all rode, so four of us all decided to do the alumni together this year and went to all the shows together,” said Hutson, who trains with Erika Githens of River Hollow Farm. “It was a lot of fun. It was more relaxed with less pressure than riding as an undergrad. Everyone’s just happy and supportive of each other.”
         
Riding St. Andrews’ Samantha, she took some risks and really went for the win.  “I still ride on my own when I have time, but competing in the IHSA as an alum is perfect. You’re still able to ride and show, without the same time commitment you’d have to make otherwise to keep a horse going,” said Hutson.

•    Shelby Piechorowski from Michigan State University won the individual intermediate flat championship, despite limited access to team horses and lessons.
     
“Michigan is a self-funded club team, which has six univer-sity horses for 60 riders. Riders get one lesson every other week on a team horse, so she’s had under 10 hours of team practice for the entire season,” explained team captain Patrick Foth. “I know a lot of trainers in the area, so we were able to get catch-rides. She worked for this, riding two or three horses a day and riding with no stirrups for a month. Hard work pays off, and she is a prime example of that.”
   
“Last year was a slow start for me, so I was hoping I’d have a good year,” said Piechorowski, a sophomore from Lambertville, Mich., majoring in animal science with an ag business concentration.

The IHSA Family Bands Together During Tragedy


This year’s Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championship served as the inaugural year of the Jon Conyers Memorial Scholarship, created in memory of the much-loved coach from Sweet Briar College (Va.) and board of directors member, who passed away in November 2008. Conyers received the organization’s Lifetime Achievement award earlier that same year.

“The hallmark of Jon’s involvement with IHSA was his willingness to share his knowledge and experience with anyone interested in learning. His selfless commitment has helped shape the IHSA as we know it today,” read the scholarship description.

“Jon believed in the basics and worked tirelessly with his riders to help them develop a working partnership with their horse. A rider that demonstrates Jon’s ideals would first have a passion and respect for the horse. Additionally, this rider would demonstrate a desire to improve himself or herself in order to improve their relationship and communication with their horses.”

Sarah Long, from the University of the South (Tenn.), was awarded with 2009 scholarship.

Teresa “T” McDonald received this year’s IHSA Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her involvement since the mid-‘70s, as rider, coach, regional president, board of directors member and beyond.

Co-founder and past president of the Southwest Virginia Hunter Jumper Association, founding member of the Intercollegiate Dressage Association and Southwest Virginia Dressage Association, McDonald has helped develop opportunities for countless equestrians.

The comfort and guidance she showed to members of her team at Virginia Tech in 2007 following the tragic on-campus shooting that claimed Emily Hilscher, one of their teammates, was a manifestation of the qualities that have made her a treasured member of the IHSA family.

That family spirit was evidenced throughout nationals, graciously hosted by Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, only two weeks after a tornado struck on April 10, passing only a half-mile away from Miller Coliseum on its 23-mile path of destruction.

Donation cans were set up throughout the facility to benefit those affected by the fatal storm. Elaine Gray, an MTSU team member, lost her home to the tornado and was presented with a check for $2,000 from the funds raised during the show.

 
Horse Sports