Childhood Friends Nigel Lancaster and Ashton Knerr 
Take Champion and Reserve Honors

Black Hawk College Rides to the IHSA/NSBA Team National Championship


HARRISBURG, Pa. – May 8, 2022 – The Western teams shined on the final day of competition at the 2022 Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) National Championship Horse Show. The IHSA/American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) High-Point Rider Award and the NRHA/NSBA National Championship Team were announced to a cheering crowd. 

The IHSA/AQHA High-Point Rider class began Saturday with the horsemanship phase of 19 riders split into two sections. Each rider executed a walk, jog and lope along the rail for the judges. One at a time, they performed the horsemanship pattern which included backing, gait extensions at the jog and lope, and a simple change of lead before returning to the lineup. 

At the conclusion of the horsemanship phase, the University of Findlay junior Ashton Knerr (Plain City, Ohio) topped the field with Sarah Beth Felker (Cross, South Carolina - St. Andrews University) and Nigel Lancaster (Hilliard Ohio - Ohio State University) rounding out the top three.

The reining phase increased the excitement level in the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center. The riders returned on different mounts to execute the reining pattern. The crowd cheered as the riders showcased their mounts to the judges.  

After Section A completed the reining phase, the Ohio State University junior and Ollie Griffith-trained Nigel Lancaster had the section-high-score of 147 aboard Penny from Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). Two points behind with a 145 in second was MTSU freshman Jordan Martin (Murfreesboro, Tennessee) with the SUNY-Morrisville-owned Prince. Knerr rounded out the top three in Section A reining with a 144 with Midway University’s Don Julio.

Nigel Lancaster - Penny - Credit Andrew Ryback

Nigel Lancaster riding Penny (Middle Tennessee State University) in the IHSA/AQHA High-Point Rider Reining Phase to a score of 147. Penny was the High-Point Reining Horse. Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography


With a few classes on the schedule between sections, the 10 riders in the Section B were able to create a strategy for their ride based on their draw and the results of Section A. 

The judges rewarded consistency and precision. Scores ranged from 135 to 144. Topping Section B reining was Rudy Pohlabeln (Edgewood, Kentucky – Morehead State University) riding Owen, provided by Cazenovia College.

At the completion of both the horsemanship and reining phases, scores were close enough that there judges decided to bring back the top-two riders for a ride-off. Childhood friends and friendly competitors, Lancaster and Knerr were called back to ride a second horsemanship and reining pattern to determine the IHSA/AQHA High-Point Rider.

Lancaster rode the Morehead State College-mount Juice in the reining ride-off. His round started off with beautiful spins and flowing circles and ended with a great sliding stop.

"Those spins were not collegiate stuff," Ohio State University Coach Ollie Griffith said. "That's how you do it in the real world."

Knerr’s ride on Juice began with a smooth spin. The crowd cheered on her circle work and sliding stop.

For the horsemanship ride-off, both Lancaster and Knerr rode Harley, a horse from MTSU. Knerr went first this time. The pattern began with a jog and turn on the haunches. It included some counter cater work, changes of direction and lead ending in a stop and rein back. Knerr's ride was smooth and appeared effortless. Lancaster rode with consistency and finesse.

Knerr and Lancaster grew up riding together at Ollie and Debbie Griffith’s Autumn Rose Farm in Delaware, Ohio, also the home barn for the Ohio State Western team. The friends finished one-two in the IHSA High Point Rider Versatility Championship held at the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) World Championship Horse Show held Sept. 29 in Fort Worth, Texas.

"I told her going up to the draw table I wanted it to be me and her in the top," Lancaster said. "In 2020 we did the high point out in Texas and we were tied. We had a run off for that. I told her let's do that again, and we did it. It feels good having her by my side."

“It couldn't be any better,” said Ohio State coach, Ollie Griffith. “We love both these kids. They both grew up at our farm and are the best of friends. Naturally, I’ve always got to side with Ohio State, but if Ohio state doesn't win that's the girl I'd want to win.” 

“We're just excited for both of them,” added Debbie Griffith.

The Griffiths were awarded the IHSA Pioneer Award for their contributions to the IHSA and the industry during the show. They retire from coaching Ohio State on a high note with an IHSA/AQHA High-Point Rider National Championship, the sixth of their career.



National champions in the different levels of horsemanship were crowned on the final day of IHSA National Championship Horse Show competition. Classes began with the riders showing the walk, jog and lope in both directions along the rail. In many of the classes, judges asked for an extension of the jog and/or lope. After the rail work, each combination executed a series of maneuvers where the judges looked for the correctness of the riders’ seat and hands, and overall position and finesse.

Horsemanship patterns include a variety of different maneuvers, many of which mimic elements of western pleasure, reining, western riding and trail classes. Horsemanship riders exhibited movements such as circles, spins or quarter turns, gait extensions and a stop and back to signify the end of their pattern work.

Aboard Black Hawk College’s Sheldon, Erin Murray (Dublin, Ohio), a sophomore at the Ohio State University was the 2022 IHSA/NSBA Team Level II Horsemanship national champion. Autumn Cary (Syracuse, Nebraska) from Black Hawk College took the reserve call on Chip from St. Andrews University.

The IHSA/NSBA Team Rookie Horsemanship National Championship honors go to Lily Roman (Wake Forest, North Carolina), from St. Andrews University aboard the Alfred University mount, Fred. The reserve championship went to Jessica Drown (Columbus, Ohio), a junior at the Ohio State University.

The IHSA/AQHA Individual Levell II Horsemanship class showcased 12 riders executing the pattern. Riding to the national championship title aboard Wayne (Black Hawk College) was Sara Eveleigh (West Monroe, New York) a junior at Cazenovia College. Kaylee Tingle (New Castle, Kentucky - Midway University) took home the reserve championship aboard the MTSU mount, Fish.

West Texas A&M senior Mary French (Canon City, Colorado) rode to the IHSA/AQHA Individual Rookie Horsemanship national championship. She was aboard the Alfred University (Alfred, New York) mount, Ben. Also riding an Alfred University horse, MTSU junior Shannon Kennedy (Memphis, Tennessee) took the reserve championship honors.

University of California – Davis’ Carly Johnson (Tracy, California) guided the SUNY-Morrisville mount Trigger to the IHSA/AQHA Individual Beginner Horsemanship national championship title and was awarded the Copenhaver Trophy. Kayla Jiras (North Liberty, Iowa) aboard Yeller from Murray State University rode to the reserve call.

Maddy_Falkowitz_INDIVI Beginner Horsemanship

Carly Johnson (UC - Davis) and the SUNY-Morrisville mount Trigger are the IHSA/AQHA Individual Beginner Horsemanship national champions. Photo by Maddy Falkowitz/EQ Media

In the IHSA/NSBA Team Open Horsemanship, and the last chance to add points for the NSBA Team Horsemanship, riders had the chance to stand out from the field before heading into the pattern during the no-stirrup work while on the rail. 

Anna Wilhelm (Shannon, Illinois) from Black Hawk College and Millie (Albion College) took home the championship prize besting the field. Reserve champion was Sara Beth Felker (Cross, South Carolina) from St. Andrews University and Wally (Albion College). Rounding out the top three was Lancaster aboard Fish provided by MTSU.

Maddy_Falkowitz_TEAM Open Horsemanship

Anna Wilhelm from Black Hawk College (right) and Sara Beth Felker from St. Andrews University shake hands as IHSA/NSBA Team Open Horsemanship, results were announced. Photo by Maddy Falkowitz/EQ Media

As the final class of the 2022 IHSA National Championship Horse Show, the IHSA/AQHA Individual Levell I Horsemanship national championship was awarded to Ryann Piperno (Schwenksville, Pennsylvania) from the University of Findlay and Harley (MTSU). The reserve call went to Grace Wolfington (Sheboygan, Wisconsin) from West Texas A&M. 




Maddy_Falkowitz_Western Judges


Western judges Gretchen Mathes and Allen Mitchels with their scribes  watching IHSA riders during the 2022 National Championship Horse Show. Photo by Maddy Falkowitz/EQ Media

“The show was amazing, and I think that the kids were amazing,” said Gretchen Mathes. “The horse providers were so appreciated, and I thought it was a fairly uniform group. I was really impressed with how everything came out.” 




Black Hawk College Champion Team - Credit EQ Media-

The Black Hawk College Western team after winning the IHSA/NSBA Team National Championship. Photo by EQ Media

The Black Hawk College Western team rode to their first national team championship and the first-ever title for a two-year school.






High-Point Western Horse award went to Harley from Middle Tennessee State University.

Harley - HP Horse - Credit EQ Media-

Harley from Middle Tennessee State University was the High-Point Western Horse. Pictured here with MTSU team members and coaches Andrea Rego and Ariel Higgins. Photo by EQ Media



The Most Popular Western Horse was Juice, the gelding from Morehead State University.

Juice - Western Most Popular Horse - Credit Maddy Falkowitz

Harley from Middle Tennessee State University was the High-Point Western Horse. Pictured here with MTSU team members and coaches Andrea Rego and Ariel Higgins. Photo by Maddy Falkowitz/EQ Media



Rider – Sal "Grant" Washington from West Texas A&M University

Coach – Conner Smith from Midway University

Volunteer – Sarah Younger, University of Louisville hunter seat coach

Western Sportsmanship Awards - Credit Maddy Falkowitz

Bob Cacchione, Sal Washington, Conner Smith, Sarah Younger and Peter Cashman. Photo by Maddy Falkowitz/EQ Media