NRHA Members Figure Prominently in IHSA National Championships

From L.A. Pomeroy news release - The 39th edition of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) National Championships was held May 3-6, at the Hunt Horse Arena located on the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, N.C. NRHA was proud to be an official sponsor of the IHSA Western Semi-Finals (March 24-25) and thrilled to enhance their sponsorship of the 2012 IHSA National Championships. Several NRHA members figured prominently into the Championship results further increasing NRHA’s presence at the event.

The NRHA Open Reining Pattern Championship went to Ohio State University’s Elisabeth Bianco. Josh Clevenger, of Black Hawk College, earned the reserve championship. The AQHA Trophy Western Team National Championship went to Oregon State University, and reserve honors went to Ohio State University, coached by NRHA Judges Committee member Ollie Griffith. In addition, St. Andrews Western team coach and NRHA Judge Carla Wennberg, received the IHSA 2012 Nationals Coach Award for outstanding sportsmanship.

“We looked for horsemanship and could feel it here at these championships,” said IHSA Western judges Gretchen Mathes and Betsy Tuckey, both well respected and well known NRHA judges as well. “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 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 in the 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 title — was achieved.”

The 2012 AQHA Western Team reserve championship went to Ohio State University and Coach Ollie Griffith, NRHA Judges Committee member. For Griffith, possibly the greatest reward was in family pride, as son Austin Griffith delivered an early Mother’s Day present, earning the AQHA High Point Western Rider title as well as the 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. Our next goal is to win the NRHA Derby and then 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.” Leggett 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 reining horse, 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 Center, traveled from Illinois to North Carolina to cheer on their grandson, and his teammate, Carrie Somerville.

Wennberg Recognized

St. Andrews Western team coach and NRHA Judge 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 in gathering the Western horses for Nationals, and kept all the processes necessary for Western Nationals to properly perform.”

NRHA Sponsorship

NRHA is proud to be an official sponsor of the IHSA Western Semi-Finals (March 24-25). The semi-finals led up to the 2012 IHSA National Championships. In addition to an increased Semi-Finals sponsorship, NRHA enhanced their sponsorship of the IHSA National Championships. Shianne Megel, NRHA Manger of RHSF and NRHA Youth Programs, attends each event to further strengthen NRHA’s relationship with IHSA, coaches and riders.

“The rapidly expanding support of the Western Semi-Finals by the NRHA has enabled our riders to enjoy a greatly-enhanced program,” said IHSA national treasurer, Naomi Blumenthal, who also credited Ohio State University IHSA Western team coach and IHSA Associate National Steward/Director at Large, Ollie Griffith, with helping to create the partnership. “We hope he knows how grateful everyone is for bringing NRHA into our corporate family.”

Under the sponsorship, at each Western Semi-Final Championship, individual class winners and alumni class winners received IHSA-NRHA buckles. NRHA also provided each championship team with jackets, and each reserve championship team with vests. Reining class winners received NRHA trophies. NRHA awards were also presented for other ribbon winners.

For 2013 and 2014, the IHSA is pleased to announce its National Championships will be hosted in Harrisburg, Penn. For more information and complete results and point charts for the 2012 IHSA National Championships, please see

Editors: High resolution images available on request from L.A. Pomeroy.

The National Reining Horse Association is not responsible for information contained in this press release.

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