Findlay, OH - Nov. 19, 2013 - Hailing from nine USEF zones, United States Pony Club, and Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, 42 riders gathered at The University of Findlay in Findlay, OH last weekend to compete in the National Finals of USHJA's Horsemanship Quiz Challenge  (HQC) presented by Sweet Briar College . Georgia Skelton of Zone 5 won the Overall Individual Gold and Team Gold was awarded to the Zone 9 team of Bailey Fuller, Rachel Pekala, and Rebekah Polacek.
Along with their gold medals, each winner received a $1,000 grant for training and education (e.g. lessons or training), a Charles Owen  helmet, and Skelton received a training session at Spy Coast Farm .
Skelton, 19, has a Thoroughbred gelding who she shows in the hunters and has also evented and participated in Pony Club with, currently holding her HA rating. She is a freshman at Georgetown College and is studying to apply to veterinary school. She plans to show as a high level amateur concurrently with her veterinary aspirations. Thrilled with her win, Skelton said, "I think it is going to be really exciting to work with some of the upper level riders at Spy Coast and be able to use the money for the improvement of my riding."
Riders who show as 21 and under qualified by taking two written tests online. A score of at least 90% on the first exam allowed a rider to take the Level Two Quiz. The exam materials are based on the Horsemanship Quiz Challenge Study Guide and they are both open-book. The top combined scores were chosen to field Zone teams, as well the top scoring individuals around the country, and the IHSA and USPC teams. HQC competitors this year ranged from working students without horses of their own or much show experience of their own all the way to Grand Prix riders with many horses and long show records.
At the Finals, riders competed in a written exam (closed book and timed) and a practicum. The rest of the time was spent on fun team competitions, relays, and educational seminars. Seminars included learning about sports psychology with Kip Rosenthal, farrier work with Bobby Menker CJF APF, and lameness issues with USHJA Youth Committee member Marissa Cohen. The University of Findlay facility offered classrooms in the barn, as well as three indoor arenas, making it an ideal location for the HQC testing, learning, and demonstration activities.
For the team competition, every member of the Zone 9 team travelled from Oregon to compete. Bailey Fuller, member of the USHJA Adult Amateur Jumper Regional Championship Team from the West Region, had received a 99 % on the second exam to qualify and spent her plane ride to Ohio continuing her studying and reviewing the HQC manual. Even with her impressive score to qualify for National, the Finals written exam evaluated riders to a new level. Fuller commented that the written test was "challenging for sure."
Competitors also enjoyed spending time meeting each other and this was encouraged through team activities, including the Welcome Stake, relay races of tasks like putting a bridle together, and pizza parties. Meeting like-minded riders from all over the country to keep connected within their future riding careers was a highlight for most of the riders.
USHJA Youth Committee member and HQC Finals Practicum judge Lilli Biedermann has been on the HQC team since its inception and was excited about the growth about the program this year. "I was thrilled to witness firsthand the tremendous growth of this National Finals event, in its second year, and the corresponding leap in quality of competitors. Some of these kids really blew us away in the Practicum. It is gratifying to know that we are satisfying our Youth members' thirst for horsemanship knowledge and to see them step up to the plate in response. Everywhere I looked I saw smiles!"