The Skidmore College (N.Y.) equestrian team has been waiting a long time to shine at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships, and after winning ribbons in six of the eight classes, they won their sixth national title today, Saturday, May 8, in Lexington, Ky.
“It comes down to the last class, and you know what, it always does here,” said head coach Cynthia Ford. “It’s always so close, and it is so hard to win because it is not just about having the best riders and being the best prepared. It still has to do with luck. You have to have a little bit of luck.”
In the final class of the team competition, open equitation over fences, University of Kentucky’s Ali Cibon laid down two beautiful trips to claim the blue ribbon and move her team into third with 18 points, but Skidmore’s Elizabeth Kigin’s fourth-placed effort was enough to seal the championship for her school. Centenary College (N.J.) and University of Findlay (Ohio) added no points to their team total in the class, and remained tied with 20 points for the co-reserve championship. Hollins University (Va.), Stanford University (Calif.), and Stonehill College (Mass.) all tied for fourth place with 12 points.
“I have been to every single national competition that we’ve had since 1974, and this has been the most incredible,” said IHSA founder Bob Cacchione. “The journey to get here was magnificent, and every single rider that walked in this arena was awed. Many of these riders perhaps would never have the opportunity to come here and compete, and I am so proud that the IHSA was able to give them this venue and this excitement and this joy.”
For judges Don Stewart and Susie Schoellkopf, the quality of riders and horses at the championships was a pleasant surprise.
“We were a little apprehensive on the first day,” said Schoellkopf. “But by the first class we knew we had great riders out there. I think that after their junior years it is really hard for these kids. They’ve dedicated a lot of time and energy and money to this sport and really gone all out at the finals. Then they get done and suddenly they’re in college. I think this program really fills that void and really teaches them that at the end of four years, if they want to be a professional or go on and work for somebody it’s time to do that, and it’s a way of doing that.”
Sceats Is Brilliant In The Cacchione Cup
Lindsay Sceats might not have won her bet with fellow student Allison O’Neal, but riding the entire semester without stirrups may have contributed to her Cacchione Cup win today. She rode four different horses on the way to the title and impressed the judges with her riding ability.
“She’s got a wonderful position, she never faltered, and her courses were accurate,” said Don Stewart. “She was smooth, and she seemed comfortable on all the horses. She was quite clearly the winner. I think anybody here could see that she won the class.”
After the first two rounds, which consisted of an equitation course, then a flat class, Sceats, Colorado Springs, Colo., was sitting in fifth. However, a strong third round pushed her into the top four, and after a horse switch, she nailed the final test.
“I had four of the best draws of the horse show,” said Sceats, 21. “I kept watching Leroy in schooling, and I was like ‘I would ride that one well,’ and I got an 89 which was the highest score [on Friday]. I’m not the strongest flatter, but I drew one named Grady, and he was wonderful. I drew Monty [for the third round], and I had a lovely trip on him. Aspen was excellent, a little heavier on the forehand, but he did everything I asked and let me finish the class well.”
Savannah College of Art & Design’s Kels Bonham added the Cacchione Cup reserve championship to the dual ANRC championships she won earlier this spring, and Penn State University’s Elizabeth Lubrano placed third. University of Wyoming’s Elizabeth Webb took fourth, with Centenary College’s Lindsay Mohr rounding out the top five.
Sceats is a pre-med student and hopes to go on to medical school after she graduates in 2012. As a captain of Mount Holyoke’s equestrian team, she has enjoyed every moment of her IHSA experience.
“It gives you the sense that when you’re riding for a team and a group of people that you have to go in and get it done,” said Sceats. “There’s 41 people counting on you, so you have to do a good job.”
“She’s just a wonderful student and a great mentor for all the other students,” said Mount Holyoke coach CJ Law. “She’s just very calm, very collected, and she really trusts what she feels in the riding of the horse. We’re greatful to have her representing Mt. Holyoke.”
Caccione Cup Top Ten
1. Lindsay Sceats -- Mount Holyoke College
2. Kelse Bonham -- Savannah College of Art and Design
3. Elizabeth Lubrano -- Penn State University
4. Elizabeth Webb -- University of Wyoming
5. Lindsey Mohr -- Centenary College
6. Elizabeth Kigin -- Skidmore College
7. Ashley Miller -- Virginia Intermont College
8. Ali Cibon -- University of Kentucky
9. Elizabeth Giliberti -- Brown University
10. Brittany Henson -- University of Nevada
Leonard Clinches Alumni Flat Title
In his first year as an alumnus, Michael Leonard, St. Charles, Ill., took home the alumni equitation on the flat national championship. Leonard, 23, graduated from Northern Illinois University in 2009 with a degree in economics and is currently working on his Master's degree.
This is Leonard’s fourth consecutive year qualifying for Nationals. Last year he placed 10th in the Cacchione Cup. Leonard continues to travel to shows with his undergraduate team, and he said the transition from student to alumnus was a smooth one.
“As a former team captain, not leading the team and getting the rally together and just watching behind the scenes was hard for me, but at the same time it was nice to watch the team as an outsider,” Leonard reflected. “I intend on staying active in the IHSA in some capacity as I move forward. I think it’s a great organization.”
Leonard traveled to Lexington with a fellow alumni national qualifier, Kelley Douglas, who took home the alumni equitation over fences championship on Friday. Leonard helped to convince Douglas to return to intercollegiate competition.
“We worked our way up all the way to Nationals together, and now we’re going home with two blues,” he said with a laugh.
Kigin Wins Open Equitation On The Flat Championship
It would have been hard for Elizabeth Kigin to have a better day. Her fourth-placed finish in team open equitation over fences secured her team the national title, she placed sixth in the Cacchione Cup, and she took home the individual open equitation on the flat national championship.
“Winning the team championship is really exciting, and winning this is just the cherry on the cake,” she laughed. “The pressure was off of me for this flat because flatting for me has been come and go for the whole season. I just went in there and tried to be my best.”
Kigin drew one of Skidmore’s own horses, Best Boy, for the class, and while she has ridden him several times in the past, she said that sometimes drawing a familiar horse can be a disadvantage.
“You expect things from them that they might not give you in the ring,” said Kigin. “But he’s been great all week, and it was nice to be on something familiar.”
IHSA has been a different kind of challenge for Kigin, who competed in the high junior jumpers and in grand prixs as a junior.
“I didn’t make the team my first year, and I had to work on getting my leg in the correct position and putting my heels down,” Kigin said. “Cindy [my coach] made me an equitation rider, and that’s something I never was.”