Under sunny, beautiful skies the 11th Alumni Tournament of Champions, Sponsored by Alliant Private Client Insurance was celebrated at the iconic USET Foundation in Gladstone, NJ. This was the first time the show was held over two back to back days at the same location. Thanks to our amazing sponsors we offered 15 individual classes, 2 team competitions, 2 sportsmanship awards, and 2 horse of the show awards, in addition to our Saturday evening season high score awards.
Saturday evening we had record attendance with a great mix of western and hunt seat riders for our IHSAA sponsored exhibitor party and awards reception held in the amazing USET rotunda. For western we used only horsemanship points as not all regions offered alumni reining or ranch, for hunt seat flat and fences points were added to determine the winner. Six places were awarded ribbons and saddle pads sponsored by Jessie’s Creations for hunt seat and slate drink coasters sponsored by Crystal Cowen in Memory of Jeff Dye for Western. The top place and overall winner out of hunt seat and western points was Kathrn Kraft of St Mary’s of the Woods . Western high point rider Rylee Burke and Adrian Graduate.
Sunday morning started with a great warm-up from our sponsor Fitness Coach Ifa of Ifafit.com, but then it was off to a full day of Hunt seats action – starting with Ridge Top North 2’6” fences, former IHSA coach and author of Athletic Equestrian Sally Batton tested the top for ultimately crowing Washington College grad Kristie Nissen as the first champion of the day, over University of Ottawa’s Aylen Ferguson. Next, was the always popular Campus Equestrian Reunion Fences class that is open to those who were not actively showing members of the current show season. This year we heard a lot of comments on how much fun they had and that they cannot wait to get back to showing with their local region! Centenary University graduate and IHSA nationals schooler extraordinaire Phillip Williamson ended up edging out Wilson College graduate Megan Mendenhall for the top spot. Williamson was quoted saying “he thought his day was over before it started when his 6’6 self drew the 15.2 TB mare” but after his ride he couldn’t wait to tell the horse provider how enjoyable his ride was. We truly are blessed to have amazing horse providers who bring us the best of the best each year!
One would say Mount Holyoke new graduates had a steller first experience sweeping the future classes. The western champion was awarded to Hannah Brown with her teammate Sara Hearn snagging the hunt seat trophy sunday. Another MHC grad Sierra Dunn earned reserve in both western and hunt seat. The IHSAA Future Alumni Cup (sponsored by IHSAA and presented by Tammy Cromonski, National IHSA representative) combines the score of an over fences round, a flat round, and a test for the top riders. It was a pleasure welcoming 17 new alumni with the future alumni classes. Riders were all recognized with roses sponsored by Penn State Alumni Mom Michele Rinda during the lunch break.
Hunt Seat Riders were competing in 8 various classes to become the 11th name added to the following trophy classes Adult Ammy Strong 2’3 Fences, Ridge Top North 2’6” fences, Sandra Sayre Alumni Flat, Dreamers & Schemer’s Advanced Flat, and the Mane Jane Alumni cup. In addition, three newer classes added the eighth name to the Campus Equestrian Reunion Fences, Equi-Jet Reunion Fences, and the IHSAA Future Alumni Cup.
At the conclusion of our fences, we had a special retirement ceremony for a longtime IHSA draw and fan favorite horse. Briarwood draw Martel was sent off to spend the rest of his days in a lovely retirement home with former IHSA national alumni rep and strong ATOC supporter Karen Sykes. Then it was back to the action of an afternoon filled with many flat classes. After all the classes were pinned we could finally announce the Mane Jane Alumni cup as our final class of the day to a teary-eyed, long time supporter, University of Findlay graduate Erika Kurtz. We are all fortunate that along with her husband Tom and helpful barn kids, Serenity farm brought us six horses for the day. To make the win even more special, she drew a horse she brought, Marley to clinch the win in the workoff. In true daddy’s girl fashion she could not wait to get back home to tell her father all about the day, her win, and share the trophy with him.
In an effort to make sure people always have someone cheering for them and in making lifelong friends we offer team classes each day. Three riders join forces with people they may or maynot have known before Saturday or Sunday to compete in the team challenge. To encourage mingling teams could add bonus points for having riders from different states and competition zones, as well as, best team name. Perri’s leather continued their tradition and sponsored the Sunday Hunt Seat championship with each team member taking home a Perri’s Leather Halter. Where scores were tracked for each team member with the lowest score dropped which went to Barely Win Anything, quite the hypocritical name!
We love it when our riders want to pay it forward. In 2022 we had many riders sponsoring awards, prizes, lunches, and even rider numbers; which this year read “ride it like you stole it.” The Midnight minx hunt seat sportsmanship sponsored by Jackie Annatone and voted on by riders at the show went to Sara Lent. The hunt seat horse of the show went to Phoenix Risings’s Artie who went home with a nice gift certificate from Devocoux.
The Alumni Tournament of Champions is an IHSA style horse show for IHSA alumni from around the country. Riders draw horses before competing and are not able to practice on the horse before walking into the show ring. The purpose of the show is to expand opportunities for IHSA Alumni to ride in a finals type atmosphere, as many only show a few times a year with busy careers and limited funds.
Keep an eye out for the 2023 Alumni Tournament of Champions, the date and location should be set by early fall. As always, we look forward to what the next tournament, which will be the 10th anniversary for Western will bring – we do know it will bring many memories, laughs, and new friends!