“Cheers to 10 fabulous years” was the theme of the 10th year of the hunt seat side of the alumni tournament of champions show, which was held Sunday, June 6th at the iconic USET in Gladstone, NJ. It is amazing to have gone from 12 riders the first year to 134 in just 10 years! In the past Mother Nature always had something up her sleeve, but this year we could have begged for a few clouds to cast shade on the amazing grounds.
This was the first time since 2016 that hunt seat and western were held the same day, at the same location. With a large amount of entries and temperatures in the high 90s which was supposed to be convenient for crossover riders, all the changing of discipline attire might not have been. The day began with Michael Dowling judging all of the over fences in the main ring. After a quick clear of the ring western horsemanship and reining took center stage in the outdoor with Kelli Wainscott judging while Michael judged the hunt seat flat heats in the indoor. After western concluded, it was back to hunt seat in the main ring for all of the finals!
Normally, Western riders compete for 6 trophies (Steve Maxwell Alumni Horsemanship, Avon Advanced Horsemanship, NRHA Alumni Reining NHRA Advanced Reining, Amanda Belcher Western Alumni Cup, and IHSAA future alumni cup. This year a new class was added and it was the most popular class…Ranch riding. It was Veronica Tennariello who will add her name to the trophy first besting 15 other amazing riders.
Hunt seats riders were competing in 8 various classes to become the 10th name added to the following trophy classes Adult Ammy Strong 2’3 Fences, Gale Polleck 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 seventh name to the Campus Equestrian Reunion Fences, Equi-Jet Reunion Fences, and the IHSAA Future Alumni Cup.
A special hunt seat class for the 10 year anniversary was the Founders Battle. This class brought back all of our previous Alumni Cup winners to battle it out for $500 in prize money! Since Kayleigh Burke won the class twice there were only 8 riders including Amy Kriwitsky (2012 VFMAC), Heather Johnson (2013 centenary), Sara McCoy (2014 Centenary), Megan Mendenhall (2015 St. Timothy’s), Bianca (Lupo) DeStefano (2016 Jentri), Tara Matthews (2017 Briarwood), Burke (2018/2019 Briarwood), and Allyson Villareale (2020 Rosewood). This was a two round competition of combined scores for fences and flat … scores were totaled and the winner was Tara Matthews.
In addition to winning the battle, Matthews also topped 17 others to win the Alumni Cup once again adding her name to the Mane Jane Cup trophy. Reserve champion in the cup was Holland University grad Catherine Hensly.
It was a hot day to be riding, but especially in full chaps and most in black or dark colors (it does not appear as western has adopted the mesh/air flowing attire hunt seat has). In the full sun of the afternoon western took place starting with the new class Ranch Riding, followed by a mix of horsemanship and reining classes. The riders voted to forgo individual patterns for horsemanship and to just test on the rail to save the horses from the added work in the extreme heat. After many classes it was previous cup winner Rebecca Folk who topped the charts again adding her name once again the Amanda Belcher Memorial Western Alumni Cup. One more new award for 2021 was graciously sponsored by Mount Holyoke Equestrian Center award to the high point and reserve western riders of the day, champion was awarded to Rebecca Folk, with Eleanor Harowicz taking reserve.
It was wonderful to welcome at least eleven new riders to the alumni ranks in the future alumni cup sponsored by IHSAA. This class was open to graduating seniors from 2020 and 2021. The IHSAA Future Alumni Cup combines the score of an over fences round, a flat round, and a test for the top 6 riders. This year the trophy went home with Mia Fellin of Marist College with her previous teammate Sarah Levi in reserve.
Ultimately 8 new Hunt Seat champions went home with huge smiles and amazing prizes from our generous sponsors. It was heard several times throughout the day, “what amazing sponsors” we have at the tournament. Thanks to the diligence of co-founder Lena Andrews Licata every ribbon winner went home with at least one prize in addition to the ribbon.
In addition to individual classes, we did have one “team” competition. Riders joined forces with people they may or maynot have known before Saturday or Sunday. Teams of 3 competed in the team challenge, where scores were tracked for each team member with the lowest score dropped. Teams could add bonus points for having riders from different states and competition zones, as well as, best team name. This year Perri’s leather sponsored the class, the championship with each team member taking home a Perri’s Leather Halter went to Horse Draws and White Claws while reserve team Now & 10 took home pullovers from Perri’s. Best team name awarded an extra point by judge Michael Dowling went to Fresh off Stall Rest.
This year we were honored to have Alliant Private Client Insurance as a title sponsor, as well as a guest appearance from none other than IHSA founder Bob Cacchione. We are always so fortunate to have amazing support from incredibly generous sponsors. Fulkerson Winery generously sponsored all the ribbons and some wine this year allowing our riders to take home many beautiful ribbons. Nutrena sponsored the draw including a prize for the hunt seat and western rider who had the lucky draw #1. We had several amazing class, prize, and goodie bag sponsors including Mane Jane, IHSA Alumni Association, Campus Equestrian, Sandra Sayre, Laren Sykes, Gale Pollock, Avon, Arbonne, Adult Ammy Strong, Platinum Performance, She-Fit, Kong Equine, Horse Scents, Success Equestrian, Essex Classics, Dreamers & Schemers, Brooke’s belts, Crafty Corgi, Bob’s Saddles, Maryland Saddlery, Bronco Western Supply Perri’s Leather, Smartpak, FarmVet, Equi-Jet, SeaShore Stables, and Devocoux.
This year we were glad to be able to welcome back our IHSAA sponsored pre-party / end of year awards reception held in the amazing USET rotunda. It was nice to see everyone enjoying the party that was not able to be held last year due to covid restrictions. This year’s high point riders accumulations were done a bit differently since there were no “live” Ihsa shows this season. Points were calculated off of the virtual ATOC show, as well as, the three Virtual IHSA hosted shows. Six places were awarded ribbons and saddle pads sponsored by Jessie’s Creations for hunt seat and grooming kits 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 Sandy Rose. Western high point rider Tammy Cranouski.
There were a few special awards handed out at the show: Two special recognition awards were presented for continued support Andrea LeManque, the only western rider to attend all western tournaments since the start in 2014 and Stacey Klein, only hunt seat rider to attend all 10 Tournaments received flowers and a framed picture. Midnight minx sportsmanship sponsored by Jackie Annatone and voted on by riders at the show went to Allyson Villareale. Also voted on by the riders in the show, the horse of the show went to Centenary University’s Houdini 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 2022 Alumni Tournament of Champions, the date and location should be set by early fall (fingers crossed we can return to a normal competition season.). As always, we look forward to what the next tournament will bring – we do know it will bring many memories, laughs, and new friends!
Photos credited to Skylands Photography. Photos are of Tara Mathews with organizers Lena Andrews and Jamie Mast Windle, Tara Mathews jumping, Rebecca Folk riding western and our High Score winners for both Hunt Seat and Western respectively.