May 8, 2011–Centenary College may have traveled to the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships with a young team, but their results belied their inexperience. They dominated the event, May 5-7 at the Alltech Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, with victory in the Collegiate Cup team competition and USEF Cacchione Cup individual championship.
“We are just thrilled,” said Michael Dowling, who coaches the team in partnership with Heather Clark. “Four of the six students on the team are first-year students. We have a huge pool of talent, and everyone’s dedicated to the cause.”
This year’s team title came down to the final class, the Open Hunter Seat Equitation, where 2010 USHJA Emerging Athletes Program winner Kathryn Haley clinched the team victory with the blue ribbon.
“She’s just an exceptional individual, both as a rider and a person. She’s a freshman and came to us with all of the raw talent,” said Dowling. “We’ve just helped her develop further.”
In the end, Centenary College finished with 33 points, 11 points ahead of two New York-based schools, Skidmore and St. Lawrence, which earned the co-reserve championship honors with 22 points.
Centenary College, Hackettstown, New Jersey, also claimed the same honors in 2009, with the team title and Lindsay Clark winning the Cacchione Cup.
This year, Marissa Cohen, West Chester, Pennsylvania, claimed the Cacchione Cup for Centenary with solid riding in the three-phase competition that featured an over fences class, flat phase and ride-off. New York University’s Shelby Wakeman placed second with St. Andrews Presbyterian College (North Carolina) student Robert Jacobs taking third.
“The winner rode very well and consistently,” said judge Bob Crandall, who presided over the hunter seat classes with Kim Dorfman. “It’s sometimes the luck of the draw, but whatever horse she drew she was a stand-out.”
For the work-off, the judges selected the horse each of the three riders would compete. They chose Skidmore’s Best Boy for Cohen. “He’s a big-equitation horse, so I knew I just had to go in there and get him on his game, and he took care of me,” she said. “He knew where everything was, and we clicked really well together.”
Cohen, 22, a senior and the team captain, has risen up the ranks from the intermediate division to the Cacchione Cup level with multiple national championships along the way. Although she was thrilled with her own accomplishment, Cohen was even more pleased with the camaraderie she felt at Nationals this year.
“Everyone has been so supportive of everyone. I think as the team captain, that’s the most rewarding aspect of the weekend,” she said. “And our horses have been phenomenal, and overall the whole week couldn’t have gone better for us. Everyone’s been riding well, and we’ve gotten fantastic draws, even though they’re all great [horses]. It’s just been fantastic.”
For her victory, Cohen will also receive an automatic berth in a USHJA Emerging Athletes Program Level I training session.
In addition, Bernie Traurig, owner of EquestrianCoach.com, a USHJA educational partner, announced that his organization would be giving each IHSA hunter seat coach an annual membership and offering significant discounts for IHSA students. EquestrianCoach, an online video training resource, was created to make quality education accessible and affordable to every equestrian, regardless of their background, their level, or their geographic location.
USHJA President Bill Moroney was on hand to observe the show and support the USHJA/IHSA partnership, which began in 2010.
“The IHSA Nationals is a tremendous success due to the dedication of Bob Cacchione and support of all the volunteers, coaches, riders and parents,” said Moroney. “Both organizations are benefitting from our membership partnership through promotion and education. The IHSA program allows riders to continue experiencing the sport in their collegiate years and provides a continued educational platform for the sport’s future professionals, amateurs and owners and also allows them to participate in a governance structure.”
To learn more about the USHJA and IHSA partnership, see www.ushja.org.