Monday, Apr. 15, 2024

Lucky Charms And New Winners: Behind The Scenes At IHSA Nationals



Skidmore College (New York) claimed its ninth hunter seat national championship and the Cacchione Cup went, for the first time, to a student from Boston University when collegiate equestrians from across North America convened for the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association National Championships, held May 4-7 at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Although the Skidmore Thoroughbreds are no strangers to IHSA victories, it was a special moment for head coach Belinda Colgan. 

“It feels phenomenal. It’s my first time winning as head coach,” Colgan said. “I felt very confident in all my girls walking in. They’re phenomenal riders, every one of them.”

The 2023 IHSA National Championships brought together 16 teams and 80 donated horses for the hunt seat competition, held in the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park. Meghan Blackburn Photos

Skidmore narrowly beat out Savannah College of Art and Design, earning 46.5 points to SCAD’s 45.

In the individual competition, 24 riders (three from each of the eight zones) vied for the Cacchione Cup. The competition started with an over-fences course, the score from which each rider carried over to a flat class. A final work-off determined the winner.

Judges Robin Rost Brown and Tony Sgarlata opted to call back the top eight riders to tackle the work-off course, which was designed by Bill Yeager. Along with six fences, the judges incorporated challenges such as asking riders to demonstrate walk, counter-canter and turn on the haunches. 


Boston University’s Elizabeth Nevins was the winner of the Cacchione Cup. Nevins, a senior, started the competition in third place after scoring an 84 on her over-fences round. She then received a 90 the flat phase, giving her a 4.5-point lead heading into the work-off.

Watch her winning work-off round, courtesy of Horse & Country:

“I wasn’t aware of it, but my team manager told me that I am the first rider from Boston University to win the Cacchione Cup,” Nevins, 21, said. 

SCAD’s Celia Cram rode to the reserve championship honors, and Centenary University senior Morgan Munz rounded out the top three.

Check out more video and images from behind the scenes at IHSA Nationals, including what collegiate equestrians had to say about the lucky charms, superstitions, handshakes and habits that they bring to the big show:

Meghan Blackburn Video
Many of the IHSA member colleges brought equine athletes from their own programs for use in the competition—adding up to 80 horses provided for the Nationals. Say hello to Ralphie from Otterbein University (Ohio).

Just one of the practices that separates IHSA competition from traditional horse shows is “the draw.” Riders choose their mounts (who are attached to a random number) by way of a lottery system; at nationals this year, they could pick a carousel horse.

For each division, riders locate their assigned horse, adjust their stirrups and mount up in a separate holding area.



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