2015 IHSA National Championship Friday Report

Centenary College’s Matt Drohan gives a behind-the-scenes look of Day 2 from the 2015 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Nationals.

We’re on the road to West Springfield, Massachusetts, for the 2015 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships. IHSA member Matt Drohan, a freshman at Centenary College in Hackettstown, New Jersey, is on the ground to bring you exclusive coverage. For more about the 2015 IHSA Nationals, go to the organization’s website www.ihsainc.com.

The IHSA National Championship’s Parade of Teams | © IHSA Nationals/Taken by IHSA media intern Elaine Wessel of Centenary College

May 1, 2015—Yesterday was a great day of competition overall, and Centenary arrived at the show this morning with our heads held high. We woke up at 4:15 a.m. again and basically had the same schedule for the day—8:30 a.m. start for the show and end past 5 p.m. Little did we know it would run just past 8 pm!

Today was the big U.S. Equestrian Federation Cacchione Cup competition and everyone was looking forward to watching all 38 riders represent their respected regions. The highlight of my morning was overhearing Skidmore College Head Coach Cindy Ford say to her team, “Everyone, everyone! Let’s all take a five-minute break. I want you all to watch the sunrise and listen to the birds chirping.” It caught me off guard because everyone seemed to be in a serious state of mind. I took a step back and pondered for a bit. Throughout all of the complexity of IHSA Nationals, Cindy reminded her team of the simplicity in life by allowing them to stop everything they were doing to watch and listen to what was really going on around them. It was a powerful moment.

It was that state of mind that pushed Skidmore past us in the point total. They, however, did not end up in the lead. It was Savannah College of Art and Design, coached by Ashley Henry with words of wisdom by SCAD’s Director of Equestrian Programs Eddie Federwisch, who came out on top. Today, we didn’t turn out the best results, unfortunately receiving zero points in both the Collegiate Cup Walk–Trot and Walk–Trot–Canter Equitation divisions. Our lucky pink flamingo, Fabio, didn’t pull through for us. The lawn ornament travels with us everywhere during post-season and is easily recognizable by everyone passing our setup and in our arms at the draw table. Throughout the regular season he takes refuge in our trophy case.

Centenary College sophomore Grace Weidner holds the school equestrian team’s lucky pink flamingo, Fabio, before her draw. | Courtesy, Matt Drohan

One of the Nationals horses I was caring for, Gabun, returned to Centenary today. Herbie stayed for the USEF Cacchione and Open classes that will be held tomorrow morning.

St. Lawrence University’s Emily D’Alessandro, did so well with Herbie as she steered him to a score of 85 in the USEF Cacchione Cup Over Fences phase. It was a great start as Centenary’s own Anthony DeSimone also drew Herbie for the same class and was 24th in the order. Herbie once again did well in the class.

After both the Over Fences and Flat phases, Anthony ended in 14th overall. Tomorrow’s work-off will consist of only the top 10 scores with Sarah Kieran from the University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth leading with a score of 174.5 and Georgiana de Rham from Cornell University with a score of 174 between both phases.

In the intercollegiate and interscholastic equestrian worlds, teams prove every time that the competition isn’t quite over until the last class of the show is complete. My years with the Interscholastic Equestrian Association, the high-school version of the IHSA, have prepared me for this format of competition but haven’t made it easier when things don’t go as planned.

Two great programs that support IHSA and IEA, which is a period of extreme growth, are the Junior Equestrian Festival and the College Preparatory Invitational Horse Show, in Wellington, Florida. Both are for high-school riders taking their college search seriously. I have taken part in the CPI, now headed by Lindsay Martin, as both a rider and horse-show manager assistant and can vouch for this program’s success in getting students into institutions of higher education with intercollegiate teams. Dozens of coaches from throughout the United States travel to the CPI in Wellington, Florida, each January to watch the IEA-format competition in hopes of recruiting young student riders to their teams.

JEF was formed this year. Its mission is to promote collegiate education opportunities through equestrian sports for those in grades 9-12. JEF’s format differs from IEA in that it is a clinic with college coaches serving as clinicians or auditors. This year, JEF has focused its college recruitment efforts in the Northeast with plans to expand; JEF Director Jane DaCosta also plans to include the Western world in the near future.

Here at IHSA Nationals, today was the first day of Western competition as well. For us English riders, it was great learning and observing horses spinning, people hollering and horses sliding! It was interesting to see such diversity in the IHSA, which also was on display in the parade of teams.

We ended the day with a team dinner provided by the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association—another amazing IHSA supporter—at the Connecticut building here on the Big E grounds.

It wasn’t the easiest day for Centenary, but like Skidmore Coach Cindy Ford alluded to, sometimes you just need to step back and enjoy the simplicity of not only IHSA Nationals but life in general. As a graduate of Centenary once stated, “Alone we’re a whisper in the wind, together we’re a cyclone.” Let the battle begin and good luck to all. Let’s see what tomorrow brings!

A powerhouse of intercollegiate and interscholastic supporters (from left): IHSA Vice President Peter Cashman, CPI President Lindsay Martin, JEF Director Jane DaCosta, EquestrianCoach.com’s Bernie Traurig (a huge IHSA supporter) and IHSA founder Bob Cacchione | Courtesy, Matt Drohan

For further information:

Interscholastic Equestrian Association: http://rideiea.org/

The College Preparatory Invitational: https://www.collegeprepinvitational.com/

The Junior Equestrian Festival: http://www.juniorequestrianfestival.com/

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