We're on the road to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for the 2013 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships! We have two IHSA members on the ground to bring you lots of behind-the-scenes coverage. Here is a little info about our correspondents:
Madison Harris is a senior at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, studying Business Management. As team member of the Berry Hunt Seat team, Madison has held the captain's position of Historian for 3 years as well. On top of team, riding her Appendix Quarter Horse mare, Sassie, and participating in the IHSA Media Internship, she also started and manages her own photography business called MHarris Photography. Photography and horses are two of her passions and she is incredibly excited to be helping out with the Practical Horseman coverage this year in Harrisburg.
Nicole Mandracchia has been riding for over 10 years and is a working student at James and Robin Fairclough's Top Brass Farm in Newton, New Jersey. She helps tend to the farm's 25 driving and jumping horses. She grooms and shows at major horse shows on the East Coast, such as HITS Saugerties and Ocala, Garden State, the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show, the Pennsylvania National and Lake Placid. She attends Centenary College and is the senior captain of the IHSA team where she has been competing in the Open level for four years. Nicole is planning to graduate in May 2013 with an Equine Studies degree with a concentration in Communications.
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Nicole Mandracchia's Blog: Final Hunt Seat Day at IHSA Nationals: I heard one of my favorite songs, "Titanium" by Sia, come over the loudspeaker this morning while all our horses were out schooling. I sang along with it for a few bars and then turned to one of my teammates with a smile. "It's going to be a good day?this is a good song." He looked at me like I was crazy, but I was getting good vibes.
As the saying goes, it ain't over until it's over. It seemed as though Centenary's luck finally turned around today. Senior Cori Reich won the coveted USEF/Cacchione Cup title, something she has been working very hard for. This is the third time in five years that a Centenary rider has claimed this title; graduate Lindsay Clark won it in 2009 and graduate Marissa Cohen won in 2011.
It was so stressful listening to the announcer list the riders' names in reverse order of placing during the awards presentation. Our entire team was there to cheer for her when her name was called in first place?we were all in tears. After all the ribbon pictures were taken, we stormed into the arena and enveloped her in a group hug. There are so many of us that I'm sure it looked like a stampede! Cori is amazing and we are so proud of her.
Our Open Flat rider, junior Kathryn Haley, scored a win for us in Team Open Flat. The judges did not call the riders back for further testing like they did last year. Instead, they asked the riders to drop their stirrups to the right and perform flatwork without them, including a lengthening of stride at the canter. Katie rode beautifully and with the same grace and poise that she always has. I wish I could flat as well as she can!
That win brought us to a tie with Goucher College for 5th overall in the team placings, which was the same placing we received last year. Being one of the top five teams in the country is pretty good and we'll definitely take it! Skidmore and St. Lawrence deserved the win?their riders were exceptional all week. Stanford University jumped to the Reserve Championship, which was great for them! The Savannah College of Art and Design was third and Mount Holyoke was fourth.
The show always does three sportsmanship awards to recognize three individuals who have worked hard all week to make Nationals possible. Rebecca Folk of Lafayette College won the Rider Award, Erin Githens of Lafayette College won the Coach Award and Centenary's very own Amy Gregonis won the Volunteer Award. Congratulations to them?all were very deserving!
There's also a Horse of the Show award given to the horse that has been the most consistent all week and has been a favorite among riders and coaches. Centenary's King won this award, and he proudly posed in the winner's circle. He will receive free SmartPaks for a year and won a beautiful bridle, which we want him to wear in his lessons every day. Centenary has had King for 7 years, and he has been such a great addition to our program. He has taught countless riders how to ride and always comes to Nationals with us. He also does ANRC Nationals, IDA shows at Centenary, IHSA shows at Centenary and Hunter/Jumper team shows. He a professional and knows his job well.
After the award presentations, we packed up our equipment and horses to go home. This was the last IHSA show of my college career?I graduate from Centenary in two weeks. It's so surreal and I do not know where the past four years have gone. IHSA has been a part of my college career from day 1; I have always been committed to our team. I have learned so many essential riding skills competing in IHSA shows in Zone 3, Region 3. As a captain, I've learned the value of teamwork and how to run horse shows successfully and efficiently. I have learned how to get the best out of my team and encourage them to work hard and never give up. I've made so many life-long friends that I will never forget and will always keep in touch with. And most importantly, I've learned horsemanship skills that will last a lifetime.
Ultimately, we had a great year and that's all that really matters. We were undefeated, winning every show all semester and we claimed the Zone 3 Finals Championship. None of Centenary's success would have been possible without the help of all 60 people on our team, and I thank each and every one of them for one of the best years our team has ever had. I can't thank our coaches Michael Dowling and Heather Clark enough for all their support and dedication to the team. All those no-stirrup lessons and practices ultimately made us stronger riders. It has been an honor to work with each member of this team, and I hope that they will learn as much from IHSA as I did.
Friday, May 3, 2013
From Nicole Mandracchia: We headed back to the barn around 5 a.m. on Friday morning to feed our horses and prepare them for the schooling break, which was at 6 a.m. Efficiency was the name of the game today. With the help of our volunteers, we got our 11 jumping horses out and schooled over the course before 7 a.m.
I spent the majority of the day by the warm-up arena and in the barn helping to get all of our horses ready. We have a few horses who share saddles and tack and each saddle and bridle is specifically fitted to each horse. Our volunteers have a great rhythm going in the barn?each of our horses has a box for all of their tack, polos, saddle pads and boots. Organization is key with this many horses.
There are a few IHSA rules that are different from regular USEF shows. When it comes down to show time, the only piece of equipment that each IHSA rider is allowed to touch is the stirrups. If a rider tries to adjust or change any other tack on the horse, they can be disqualified. The horse handlers can adjust the saddle, girth, martingale, noseband, etc. The rider can't warm up the horse either. He or she gets on, adjusts the stirrups and heads right into the arena. They have the opening circle to figure out the horses before they go to the first jump.
It's always interesting to hear the different types of questions that riders ask us about our horses. Some only want a few bits of information, like if the horse has an auto lead change or is hard to get moving off your leg, and some want a play-by-play description of how to ride the horse to each fence. We know all of our horses very well and try to describe them as best we can. It's always a little upsetting when a rider makes a mistake on one of your horses and blames the horse for the bad ride, even though the horse forgave the issue and continued on. That's poor sportsmanship and it's disappointing to us because we worked so hard getting the horses ready.
We had four horses in Alumni Over Fences, which was the first class of the day. Three out of the top four horses in the class were from Centenary, scoring rounds in the low 80s and high 70s. In the Cacchione Over Fences class, our horse Sean was winning with an 86 and then came back with another rider and scored an 85, putting him into second place. Eight out of the top 10 horses in that class were Centenary College-owned. Legacy, one of the fanciest flat horses we have, has won two classes this week so far. We are so proud of all of them!
Our Cacchione rider, Cori Reich, went second to last and scored an 84.5, which put her in fourth going into the flat phase. We had five horses in both flat sections A and B and all of them were great. Sometimes I feel like it's more stressful watching our horses go than it is watching the riders compete. You always want them to behave, get a good ride and place well. At the conclusion of the Cacchione flats, the judges were given a few hours to decide who would get called back for the work-off class tomorrow. They called 10 riders back, and Cori is on top. We're keeping our fingers crossed for her!
I can't tell you how many riders came back to visit our horses in their stalls after the riders rode them. The girls brought treats and fussed over each horse, which made the horses very happy. It was the cutest thing!! It seems our horses have fan clubs all over the show. I constantly get asked about the favorites Sean, King, Parker, and Legacy. Our horses are in so many pictures on various websites, which is a huge deal!
So many of the other coaches and riders have praised us on how great our horses look and how happy they are. To me, that's the biggest compliment of all. I love seeing the horses happy because that's when they perform to the best of their abilities. I feel like I've helped Sean achieve that 86 and Legacy claim that blue ribbon because we've taken such good care of them. Great horsemanship is such an important part of this industry, and our coaches and professors always stress that to all of us at school. To see everyone working hard, prepping and turning the horses out the best we can is just amazing. That's true teamwork. No matter what happens on the final hunt seat day, I'm proud of all of our horses, volunteers and riders for all of their hard work.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Blog from Nicole Mandracchia: IHSA Nationals is always a big deal for Centenary College. In the weeks prior to the horse show, we spend countless hours packing trunks, participating in riding practices and getting our horses ready to show. Last year, we brought six horses to Raleigh, North Carolina, for Nationals--this year, we have 15 horses. Luckily, we have 11 Centenary students who came along to help us with the horses!
All our volunteers arrived at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. We were the first team to arrive. Amy Gregonis, who works at the Centenary Equine Center, was chosen to be the barn manager for all the horses participating at Nationals. We spent a majority of the day helping to bed other teams' stalls, unload horses and equipment, set up the banners in the arena and build Tuesday's course. Setting up for show day is never an easy task, but Centenary hosts so many horse shows that it's second nature to us (we did seven home shows this year, including two in one day!) We also had our own full aisle of stalls to set up, which was quite a task. Thank goodness we had so many of our own students to help us out!
Every member of IHSA was either organizing or setting up for the show. Bob Cacchione and Peter Cashman were making sure things were running smoothly throughout the day and all the tasks were getting accomplished. The show manager and crew were working hard on the footing in the arenas; they were in there for hours prepping it. Naomi Blumenthal, who is the official IHSA treasurer, and many others were working to organize the office and awards room.
Tuesday was the first schooling day for all of the horses and the last day that English riders were allowed to practice until they show. Each college has designated schooling times for their horses, and it's the first chance that the horse evaluators get to see them. They will be the ones choosing the classes for each horse. The goal in this process is to make the class draws are as even and fair as possible so that one rider does not have a huge advantage over another.
All of our horses schooled well and they were put to bed early in the afternoon. Many of them took naps in their fluffy shavings?they were tired from their three-hour trip here. The Centenary volunteers spent the remainder of the day helping other teams unload their horses and set up their stalls. Then we set up the fence and banners around the JumboTron in the show arena and arranged the picture area with flowers and gates. It was finally beginning to feel like a real horse show?more and more teams were arriving as well.
Wednesday was Evaluation Day 2. Only the volunteers are allowed to ride the horses, and each horse is jumped and flatted to assess their appropriate level. They do a mock horse show course and complete a mock flat class to see what the horses can do comfortably. The evaluators are allowed to ask for additional tests to be performed, like a trot jump or counter-canter. We brought a few new horses with us this year, and the evaluators asked to see a few of the tests from those horses. The ones we bring yearly (like King, who has been doing this for years and is the IHSA pro) did not have to do much.
Our horses were great for all the tests and we gave them extra cookies when we tucked them in for the night. Some of ours tend to get a little sore or stiff, so we brought along our RevitaVet for their back and hocks, our Centurion hoof pad and of course ice and poultice. One of the things I always stress to every member of our team is that our horses always come first. Each of our students do a great job of taking care of each horse once they are done for the day.
Today was the first day of the horse show. All the jumping horses school from 6-7:15 a.m., so we were there bright and early. There's a different energy in the air on show day?excitement but apprehension all at the same time. The most stressful classes are always the team classes because you're hoping and praying that your rider does well. If your rider places 1st-6th, she earns points for your team (7, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 point, respectively). Anything after 6th does not earn any points, so all 16 qualified teams are hoping to be in the top six spots. I didn't get to watch many of the classes because we were tacking up horses for each class (at one point, we had 10 horses out at once). All of our horses were fantastic, and it seemed like everyone at the show had a favorite. Sean, King and Scout were definitely popular all day. Scout is pretty much the only Paint horse at the show, which makes him stand out.
Nationals are different from a regular indoor final horse show because it's all about your team. It's a different mentality than just showing for yourself. You're working together to achieve a goal that you've been chasing after all year. Our team spends every day and almost every weekend together, either riding or showing. We're very close, and it's nice to have people that you can joke around with and have fun. It helps remind you why you want to work with the horses. We root for each other when we win and cheer each other up when the day didn't go quite as we planned. We learn from each other and we help each other out because we want to see every rider on the team succeed, from Open Fences all the way down to Walk/Trot.
Day 1 was pretty successful?we had the individual Walk/Trot/Canter champion and were also 9th, were 9th in Individual Novice Flat, were 5th in Team Novice Fences, 3rd in Team Novice Flat and 8th in Team Intermediate Flat today. We're sitting in 4th going into Day 2, but anything can happen on Friday. As our coaches Michael Dowling and Heather Clark always tell us when we're riding a difficult horse: When the going gets tough, don't ever give up.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013