From the Judges Perspective | Gretchen Mathes and Allen Mitchels

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

“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.” 

“The IHSA is making an unbelievably large contribution to the horse industry,” Allen Mitchels added. ”I don't dislike any of the other programs, but they serve different functions and you look at the quality of the riders here, and then you see a lot of them are starting as beginners. They're out there in a walk-jog, and then you get to the top level and you're going, ‘Wow, this is pretty big time.’ It's just a wonderful program. I'm happy to be here.”

Both Mitchels and Mathes were impressed with the two IHSA/AQHA High-Point Rider finalists, Nigel Lancaster from Ohio State University and Ashton Knerr from the University of Findlay.

“They're both just amazing, talented feely riders - really good riders,” Mathes said. “We're going to see a lot of both of them. There's no question.”

“As good as you can find anywhere,” Mitchels said

When asked how Lancaster got the edge, Mathes said that it came down to a little bit more connection and a little bit more rhythm in the horsemanship phase of the work-off.

“In the horsemanship phase, I think she got turned better,” Mitchels shared. “I thought he had unbelievable connection. He looked like he'd been super glued into that saddle.”  

“He caused the horse to actually move better,” Mathes added. “It was pretty much splitting hairs.

She was ahead slightly after the reining, but not by much. But then he caught up in the horsemanship.”