Kels Bonham of the Savannah College of Art and Design tackled the work-off course today with the same confidence she’s shown throughout the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association  National Championships and won the Cacchione Cup.
When Bonham, 21, drew Sampson, donated by Virginia Intermont for the competition, for the ride-off, she was thrilled.
“I was so excited that I drew him because in my four years I’ve always wanted to ride him,” Bonham said. “He was just as fun to ride as I thought he would be. He was right there when I needed him, nice and forward, which I like. He was really maneuverable, which made the rollback and hand gallop really easy.”
The course included one trot fence and one hand gallop fence. Bonham, who’s been riding her entire life, wasn’t intimidated by the course, but she was nervous going into the ride-off with the top score for the Savannah College of Art and Design (Ga.).
She rode against Kelly Campbell of Skidmore College (N.Y.) and Claire Margolis of Stanford University (Calif.), whom the judges announced yesterday  they wanted to test again before announcing a winner. Although the judges weren't required to see the top riders in a work-off, the three scores were close enough that they wanted to see them on course one more time before making a final decision.
“I definitely felt a little more pressure,” Bonham said. “Sometimes I like going in second or third because I ride up to the challenge.”
Bonham will graduate in June from SCAD with her degree in equine studies. She plans to stay in the Savannah area and would like to become a professional rider and trainer. Her win came on the back of her fourth consecutive American National Riding Commission win (N.J.) two weeks ago.
She grew up riding horses with her parents, Michael and Heather Bonham, on the hunter circuit. Although she did a lot of catch riding as a junior rider, she said riding in IHSA changed her perspective and improved her riding.
“I’ve learned to adapt really quickly and be able to ride a lot of different personalities of horses,” she said. “I’ve become more sensitive to how the horse is feeling and how I need to adapt rather than making them adapt.”
Campbell took the reserve championship title for the Cacchione Cup riding King in the work-off round, who was donated for the competition by Centenary College (N.J.).
“I was thrilled that I was in third (going into the ride-off) because that meant I didn’t have anything to lose,” Campbell said. “Then I realized this is actually really nerve-racking. I’m glad I kept it together!”
St. Lawrence Wins The Collegiate Cup
St. Lawrence (N.Y.) kept the team lead for the Collegiate Cup and won with 31 points over second-placed Skidmore College.
In the open equitation over fences, St. Lawrence rider Abigail Cook placed fifth, bringing in the final 2 points for the team score. Open equitation on the flat was the only class in the Collegiate Cup in which St. Lawrence did not add any points to their team score. However, every single rider who competed for St. Lawrence placed in the ribbons.
Mary Drueding, St. Lawrence coach, said she was excited to finally win the national championship. “We’ve spent a lot of time in second place,” she said, adding that the riders who ride for St. Lawrence are very devoted to the team. The school helps send all the team members to nationals, even the non-competing members. Drueding said that helps nurture a sense of team spirit.
Both St. Lawrence and Skidmore are in Zone 2, and Skidmore coach Cindy Ford said she loves to show that the zone is a strong competitor as a group.
“If we couldn’t win it, to have St. Lawrence win it was great,” Ford said. “They came here, and they were fantastic.”
Brown University (R.I.) placed third with 16 points after Jacqueline Lubrano placed second in open equitation over fences and won open equitation on the flat. The judges chose to test the top six riders in the flat class by having them ride a serpentine with two simple lead changes followed by a turn on the forehand and trot work.
- Many schools and individuals donate horses for IHSA shows. Andrea Wells, coach for SCAD, was a member of the selection committee for the hunt seat horses. “We’ve tried to put 16 animals in the ring that you could jump on and win the class,” she said. The selection committee watches the horses school, takes into account what the horse provider says, and tries to pick out horses for each class that are similar to each other so that no student is at a disadvantage.
- For more Chronicle coverage from the event, visit the 2012 IHSA National Championships page.