IHSA Nationals in a nutshell: Mary Drueding's Saint Lawrence team won the Collegiate Cup making her the first hunter seat coach to win titles for two schools. Kels Bonham (SCAD) won the USEF/Cacchione Cup. The AQHA High Point Western Team was Oregon State coached by Dawn Ross; reserve was Ohio State. Coach Ollie Griffith’s son, Austin, was AQHA High Point Western Rider. Ohio’s Elisabeth Bianco was NRHA Open Reining Pattern Champion.
Fairfield, Connecticut—May 10, 2012—Never before in its 39-year history had an Intercollegiate Horse Show Association hunter seat team coach won two IHSA National Championships for two different colleges or universities.
But that was before Mary Drueding.
Drueding, already selected by the IHSA nominating committee to receive its Lifetime Achievement Award, demonstrated an irrefutable argument in defense of her coaching excellence and expertise as her St. Lawrence University Saints hunter seat team clinched the IHSA Collegiate Cup during the 2012 National Championships, May 3-6, at the Hunt Horse Arena of the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.
Hunter Seat Results
In 1989, while assistant coach for her alma mater, Drueding (’83) and Colby-Sawyer College made their first IHSA National Championship appearance. In 1991 she was made head coach and, three years later, under judge George Morris (one of Drueding’s personal heroes) Colby-Sawyer again had the IHSA National Championship-winning team. Drueding was inducted into the Colby-Sawyer Hall of Fame in 2007.
“This has been a totally exciting day,” she said. “I have a great school behind me and it was easy to put together a good group of riders. At St. Lawrence, we have a small -- twenty-five riders -- team that commits itself to the sport year and sacrifices to advance the greater good of college horsemanship. I am very lucky that St. Lawrence recognizes that.”
2012 IHSA Hunter Seat National Champion Team: St. Lawrence Univeristy
As for comparing this St. Lawrence victory to her wins with Colby-Sawyer, Drueding joked, “We have been so close, so many times, that we call ourselves ‘The few, the proud, the second!’ This is truly exciting. We held onto the strong momentum we established on the first day, and just kept drawing lucky ducks. I am so proud to say our riders ribboned in every class.” The Saints, who began their march on opening day, Thursday, with a Collegiate Cup-qualifying win in Novice Hunter Seat Equitation by Katherine Figueroa, were reserve team champions in 2011, 2008 and 2001, and six-time Top 10 finalists. Prior to Drueding joining as coach in 1995, St. Lawrence had not won an IHSA hunter seat team title -- then known as the Cartier Cup -- since the 1970s, when they were three-time (1973, 1975, 1977) champions.
“More rewarding than any title is seeing a rider read a horse and work with it. I enjoy facilitating that learning process more than any award I might win for myself,” Drueding added, epitomizing the qualities of modesty and accomplishment that have made her, as hunter seat horse coordinator Eddie Federwisch (Virginia Intermont College) quipped, a “Lifetimer.”
“I am so pleased for Mary,” said Skidmore College Thoroughbreds coach, Cindy Ford, whose hunter seat team are IHSA Collegiate Cup reserve national champions for a second consecutive year. “Mary and I shared reserve last year. She’s such a good horsewoman, with such an amazing sense of humor, and such extraordinary skill, I am happy to be reserve to her. She is so deserving of this achievement.”
Hunter seat judges Chrystine Tauber and R. Scot Evans praised the overall caliber demonstrated throughout the classes: “We were very impressed with the quality of riding and horses, and kept reminding ourselves these were not riders on their own horses.”
“There was a clear emphasis,” said Evans, “on the horses. It is so well worth it to bring quality horses to an event like this. It felt like every rider could get a great draw.”
Tauber agreed: “We gave high scores to some beautiful rides and strong horsemanship. These classes are real tests of riding. There has been consistency in the performances and very few re-rides.”
For the USEF/Cacchione Cup, Tauber and Evans called back three finalists -- Claire Margolis (Stanford University), Kelly Campbell (Skidmore College) and Kels Bonham (Savannah College of Art and Design). It was Bonham’s second and – as a graduating senior -- last try at the Cup after having finished reserve in 2010. Margolis, a freshman, was making her first appearance for a national title.
“Claire is a kind, hardworking girl,” said Stanford coach, Vanessa Bartsch. “I was thrilled that this little freshman from California, who has never ridden in a national medal final because she didn't have the funds to do so, could come in and score an eighty-eight, one of the highest scores of the weekend, and continue to hold up under the pressure.”
The California rider’s cool confidence earned her third in the nation in the 2012 USEF/Cacchione Cup, while the title and reserve boiled down to Campbell on Centenary College’s bay, King, and Bonham, on a Virginia Intermont chestnut named Sampson.
And like the heroic feats of its namesake, Bonham and Sampson emerged victorious from their last trip before the judges, clinching the 2012 USEF/Cacchione Cup with a total of 253 points. Campbell and King earned reserve with a final 242.5 score.
“I loved my horse,” said Bonham. “I prefer one that performs a little more forward and he was really nice.”
“You had to work hard. It wasn’t easy and you did a good job,” Evans and Tauber told Bonham after the presentation of her trophy.
“She’s stayed open to learning,” said SCAD coaches, Andrea Welles and Ashley Kelly. “She can ride many different horses and be super on all of them.” They also credited Bonham, as SCAD team captain, with setting a positive example. “She is always encouraging of others to enjoy their college riding experience. She’s been great with the lower level riders and it’s been a pleasure to have her for four years.”
“The horses were wonderful and the judges did a great job,” agreed Campbell, the USEF/Cacchione Cup reserve champion. The Skidmore graduating senior, who counts Margie Engle and Jennifer Alfano among her riding inspirations, was “thrilled” to make the top three. “After that, I had nothing to lose! I just kept soft hands and lots of leg.”
“We looked for horsemanship and could feel it here at these championships,” said Western judges Gretchen Mathes and Betsy Tuckey. “The horses have been excellent, and consistently schooled well, and for a college event we have seen nothing but a high level of enthusiasm and dedication.”
Thanks to the collegiate format, both judges emphasized how much pleasure they took in not just judging the “best pattern” but the “best executed” ride. Tuckey added, “We were looking for ‘feel,’ and horsemanship. We can see when a rider has to put more into their ride, as they had to on Saturday evening during the thunderstorm.”
Mathes agreed, “We can see when a horse is difficult or nervous. But we can also see when real horsemanship comes into play and when ‘the dance’ works.”
Dancing their way to the top of the AQHA Trophy Western Team Championship leader board were coach Dawn Ross and her Oregon State University Beavers, after twice (2011, 2009) finishing reserve.
“I am so unbelievably proud to be a part of this team, and so happy for our Western group,” said Beavers rider, Jennifer Becar. “Those guys worked hard and won lots all season so this couldn't end on a better note.”
“The Oregon State IHSA team was founded in 2000 and has won multiple regional and national titles,” said coach Ross. “Our teams have been regional champions for hunter seat and Western for eight consecutive years. The Western team placed Top Five nationally for six years, with two fourth-place finishes, a third, two reserves, and now, our National Team Championship in Raleigh.
“This is truly a team. It’s not just about those who represented us at Nationals. It took the whole team to get us to where we are now. They had the optimism to think positive, the faith to believe in themselves, the vision to think big, the enthusiasm to enjoy the challenge, the determination to take big risks and, most of all, the perseverance to try until the goal – the National Championship -- was achieved.”
2012 IHSA Western National Champion Team: Oregon State University
The 2012 AQHA Western Team reserve championship went to Ohio State University and coach Ollie Griffith. For Griffith, possibly the greatest reward from Raleigh was family pride, as son Austin Griffith delivered an early Mother’s Day present to his family by earning the AQHA High Point Western Rider title, Open Reining Championship, Open Western Horsemanship (AQHA Trophy) Championship, and Open Western Horsemanship (Individual) Reserve.
“There are really no words to describe this,” the OSU sophomore said. “I’ve wanted this for as long as I can remember. It’s one of the classes I wanted to win before I graduate. I had some very good horses, and the nice thing about growing up part of an IHSA team is that it always feels like family. Next is winning the NRHA Derby and getting our team back to Nationals in 2013.”
“For four years, this was my goal and I thank my coach, Carla Wennberg, for helping me get here,” said reserve AQHA High Point Rider, Shannon Leggett, of St. Andrews University. “To be second in the nation feels amazing.” Legget also received the 2012 IHSA Nationals Rider Sportsmanship Award. St. Andrews supporters who nominated her described her as a hard-working rider with a great attitude: “She has worked nonstop all year to improve her riding and is willing to help anyone. She is able to accomplish a great deal while still competing.”
The NRHA Open Reining Pattern Championship went to Griffith’s Ohio State teammate, Elisabeth Bianco. Josh Clevenger, of Black Hawk College, earned the reserve championship on an Ohio State reiner: Pancake.
“I had a good horse who really rose to its potential. I’d like to come back next year and win a saddle, but this is a great experience and everyone, from freshmen on up, should try it,” said Clevenger, who is also an avid roper. “Riding and roping give you the balance and fundamentals you need to show a good horse.” Clevenger’s grandparents, Appaloosa breeders John and Jo Ann Gay, of Italia Training Cente, traveled from Illinois to North Carolina to cheer on their grandson, and his teammate, Carrie Somerville.
In addition to recognizing Coach Drueding with its Lifetime Achievement Award, the IHSA selection committee chose this year to award its special Pioneer Award to St. Andrews University (formerly St. Andrews Presbyterian College) coach and equestrian program director, Peggy McElveen. McElveen was also the IHSA Zone 4 show coordinator and driving force behind this year’s championships in Raleigh.
“Peggy inspires, educates and serves as a role model for excellence. Her service to St. Andrews University, the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, and the greater equestrian community have impacted and changed numerous lives for the better,” said St. Andrews University equestrian faculty and coach, Jackie Dwelle.
St. Andrews Western team coach, Carla Wennberg, received the IHSA 2012 Nationals Coach Award for outstanding sportsmanship. “Her horsemanship is extraordinary and thoughtful, her sportsmanship honest and fair, and her attitude professional and positive,” said award nominator, Kathleen Mosca. “She helped lead the organization of gathering the western horses for Nationals, and keep all the processes necessary for Western Nationals to properly perform.”
The 2012 IHSA Nationals Volunteer Award went to barn coordinator, Jennifer Sansbury. “Jennifer,” said nominator Ashley Duda, “has done everything from meeting vans at midnight to help resolve issues throughout the show. She has a smile on her face no matter what.” Sansbury is former IHSA coach for Coastal Carolina University. “She was not currently coaching a team but decided to volunteer her time to support IHSA.”
Among the guests to the IHSA championships, who observed how tenets of good horsemanship and sportsmanship are important throughout all equine communities, was Kevin Price, chief executive officer of the United States Pony Club.
“Like our Pony Club Festival, the IHSA National Championships bring together horse people from all over the country, riders and families, getting along and working together. They also offer a nice juxtaposition of hunter seat and Western classes.
“Young people who are involved in horses and get to ride in college have the chance to gain quality ‘soft skills,’ like better communication, responsibility and teamwork. These are skills that employers want. IHSA and USPC share similar values and a foundation in team rapport and leadership.”
It’s a message that has resonated. “I had never seen this arena with so many banners and signage,” said judge Tauber. “IHSA is to be commended for having presented a first-class event.”
“We noticed so much support,” agreed Evans. “More sponsors than ever. And you could feel the Southern hospitality all around you, in the volunteer show crew in their matching t-shirts, to seeing more awards presented than any finals ever before. The IHSA Nationals are a pinnacle of a college career. And the future of horse sports.”
For 2013 and 2014, the IHSA is pleased to announce its National Championships will be hosted in Harrisburg, PA. For more information and complete results and points charts for the 2012 IHSA National Championships, please see www.ihsainc.com
Editors: High resolution images available on request.