Gladys, Va. – Oct. 25, 2023 – As the National Horse Show (NHS) begins, host of the coveted ASPCA Maclay National Championship, four Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) riders prepare to compete in the Taylor Harris Insurance Services (THIS) Adult Equitation Championship. The NHS is held at the Kentucky Horse Park Oct. 25 - Nov. 5, 2023, with the THIS Adult Equitation Championship held on Oct. 26.
Avery Swartz and Captain Krutzmann at 2022 NHS THIS Adult Finals. Photo credit: Shawn McMillen Photography
THE LEO CONROY EQUITATION GRANT AWARDED TO AVERY SWARTZ
The Leo Conroy Equitation Grant was established to commemorate Leo Conroy's loyalty and dedication to the National Horse Show and is awarded to riders who demonstrate a financial need in order to compete at the event. The Leo Conroy Equitation Grant was open to riders who qualify to compete in the ASPCA Maclay Finals, the Hamel Foundation NHS 3’3” Equitation Championship or the THIS Adult Equitation Championships. Avery Swartz will receive entry fees, stabling and a show-related expense stipend to compete in the THIS Adult Equitation Championship
Swartz will compete on Houdini, a horse owned by Centenary University. Swartz, from Bridgewater, New Jersey, is an english major with a creative writing minor. She attends Rutgers University and competes with her IHSA team in Open Fences and Open Flat. Having ridden for 12 years since the age of 8, Avery competed in the big eq classes before college. She has ridden with Coach Kelly Francfort on the Rutgers’ IHSA team for the past three years and competed at the NHS THIS Adult Finals last year. “I love IHSA for the community,” Swartz said. “For me, my team is like a family. We push each other to be best we can and are always cheering each other on ringside. We spend so much time together between practice, meetings, preshow Dunkin runs, and team bonding that I don’t consider them as just 'riding friends.' They’re some of my best friends at school.” She appreciates the bond formed with her equine partners.
Benjamin Hoban. Photo credit: Winslow Photography
Benjamin Hoban started riding at the age of 4 and has competed in hunter and equitation finals. Hoban is riding Balito, a horse graciously loaned to Hoban by the Chimenti family and Chase Hollow Equestrian Partners, LLC. Originally from Webster, New York, Hoban is now a senior at Centenary University, studying Business Administration and prepping to graduate in 2024. He competes in the Open level of IHSA. “[The IHSA] creates a team aspect to a traditionally individual sport,” Hoban said, sharing that his favorite aspect of riding is the bond with the horses.
Natalia Onisko competing in 2022. Photo credit: Shawn McMillen Photography
Natalia Onisko, 19, is from Cranford, New Jersey, and attends the University of Delaware. Onisko is competing with River Street, a horse leased from HAV, LLC that she met only a day before competing. Onisko will graduate in 2026 with a degree in international business. As part of the IHSA team at school, Onisko rides with Whitney Carmouche and competes in the Limit division on the IHSA team. For the last 10 years, she has ridden equitation and jumpers and competed at ASPCA Maclay Finals and the IHSA National Championship. “I love being a part of a team and being able to go to horse shows with my friends,” she shared. “Riding helps me de-stress and brings me enjoyment.”
Willow Vince. Photo credit: Giana Terranova
A psychology major at Amherst College, Willow Vince of Verbank, New York, rides with Jennifer Wilda and competes in Open Fences and Open Flat. She will compete with her family's Summer Stone Farm's gelding, Hardwell. In her 15 years of riding, Vince has competed at various regionals and finals, including earning Champion in the Amateur Owner 3'3” division at Zone 2 Finals (2022), winning the Region 2 THIS Regional Championship (2023) and placing fourth in the Gladstone Adult Medal (2023). Vince loves the team aspect of IHSA and getting to ride lots of different horses. “While I love competing, my favorite part about riding is the bond you create with a horse,” Vince shared. “The feeling of their warm breath on your cheek can make all your problems disappear even if only for a moment. They are such caring animals, and I feel so lucky to be around them every day.”
The IHSA wishes the IHSA riders the best of luck in the NHS THIS Adult Equitation Championship!
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