AQHA member Austin Griffith, riding for Ohio State University, won AQHA high-point western rider title, open reining championship, open horsemanship AQHA Trophy championship and open horsemanship individual reserve championship at the 2012 IHSA Nationals. (Journal photo)
Oregon State University and AQHA member Austin Griffith, riding for Ohio State University, rode off with wins on May 3-6 at the 2012 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships.
“We looked for horsemanship and could feel it here at these championships,” said Gretchen Mathes and Betsy Tuckey. Mathes and Tuckey, both AQHA Professional Horsemen and judges, judged the western division at the 2012 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships on May 3-6 in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“The horses were excellent, and consistently schooled well, and for a college event we have seen nothing but a high level of enthusiasm and dedication,” the judges added.
Thanks to the collegiate format, both judges emphasized how much pleasure they took in not just judging the “best pattern” but the “best executed” ride.
Tuckey added, “We were looking for ‘feel,’ and horsemanship. We can see when a rider has to put more into their ride, as they had to on Saturday evening during the thunderstorm.”
Mathes agreed: “We can see when a horse is difficult or nervous. But we can also see when real horsemanship comes into play and when ‘the dance’ works.”
Dancing their way to the top of the AQHA Trophy western team championship leader board were Coach Dawn Ross and her Oregon State University Beavers, after twice – 2009 and 2011 – finishing reserve.
“I am so unbelievably proud to be a part of this team, and so happy for our western group,” said Beavers rider Jennifer Becar. “Those guys worked hard and won lots all season so this couldn't end on a better note.”
“The Oregon State IHSA team was founded in 2000 and has won multiple regional and national titles,” said Coach Ross. “Our teams have been regional champions for hunter seat and western for eight consecutive years. The western team placed top-five nationally for six years, with two fourth-place finishes, a third, two reserves, and now, our national team championship in Raleigh.
“This is truly a team; it’s not just about those who represented us at Nationals," Ross explained. "It took the whole team to get us to where we are now. They had the optimism to think positive, the faith to believe in themselves, the vision to think big, the enthusiasm to enjoy the challenge, the determination to take big risks and, most of all, the perseverance to try until the goal – the national championship – was achieved.”
The 2012 AQHA western team reserve championship went to Ohio State University and Coach Ollie Griffith. For Griffith, possibly the greatest reward from Raleigh was family pride, as son Austin Griffith delivered an early Mother’s Day present to his family by earning the AQHA high-point western rider title, open reining championship, open horsemanship AQHA Trophy championship and open horsemanship individual reserve championship.
“There are really no words to describe this,” said Austin Griffith, a sophomore at Ohio State. “I’ve wanted this for as long as I can remember. It’s one of the classes I wanted to win before I graduate. I had some very good horses, and the nice thing about growing up part of an IHSA team is that it always feels like family. (My next goal) is winning the (collegiate competition at the) National Reining Horse Association Derby and getting our team back to Nationals in 2013.”
Shannon Leggett, of St. Andrews University, was another rider who achieved her personal goal at Nationals.
“For four years, this was my goal and I thank my coach, Carla Wennberg, for helping me get here,” said reserve AQHA high-point rider.“To be second in the nation feels amazing.”
Leggett also received the 2012 IHSA Nationals rider sportsmanship award. St. Andrews supporters who nominated Leggett described her as a hard-working rider with a great attitude: “She has worked nonstop all year to improve her riding and is willing to help anyone. She is able to accomplish a great deal while still competing.”
The NRHA open reining pattern championship went to Griffith’s Ohio State teammate, Elisabeth Bianco. Josh Clevenger, of Black Hawk College, earned the reserve championship on an the Ohio State reiner "Pancake."
“I had a good horse who really rose to its potential. I’d like to come back next year and win a saddle, but this is a great experience and everyone, from freshmen on up, should try it,” said Clevenger, who is also an avid roper. “Riding and roping give you the balance and fundamentals you need to show a good horse.”
St. Andrews Western team coach, AQHA Professional Horseman Carla Wennberg of Laurinburg, North Carolina, received the IHSA 2012 Nationals coach award for outstanding sportsmanship.
“Her horsemanship is extraordinary and thoughtful, her sportsmanship honest and fair, and her attitude professional and positive,” said award nominator, Kathleen Mosca. “She helped lead the organization of gathering the western horses for Nationals, and keep all the processes necessary for Western Nationals to properly perform.”
For 2013 and 2014, IHSA is pleased to announce its that national championships will be hosted in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. For more information and complete results and points charts for the 2012 IHSA National Championships, please see www.ihsainc.com.