November 21, 2013
By Tara MatslerThe American Quarter Horse Journal
Riding RA Undisputed, owned by Katherine Tobin, Oklahoma State University's Katy Krshka clinched the 2013 AQHA Collegiate Horsemanship Challenge championship. (Journal photo)
It’s March Madness meets horsemanship.
The AQHA Collegiate Horsemanship Challenge blends the styles of Intercollegiate Horse Show Association and National Collegiate Equestrian Association competition, drawing the best horsemanship athletes from each organization.
The showdown kicked off November 20 in Oklahoma City, held in conjunction with the 2013 AQHA World Championship Show. In Round 1, the 16 riders paired off in head-to-head match-ups – as is NCEA protocol – with the winning eight riders moving on to Round 2 for another head-to-head face-off. (View the results from Rounds 1 and 2.)
Four riders moved on to the Thursday night Collegiate Challenge final, which was sandwiched between the crowning of the senior western riding and ranch horse pleasure world champions.
The final four consisted of Katy Krshka, the only returning rider from the inaugural Collegiate Challenge who qualified for the 2013 challenge finals, riding for Oklahoma State University; Molli Jacobs for Texas A&M University; Paige Stawicki for the University of Georgia; and Austin Griffith for Ohio State University.
As is typical in IHSA competition, the final four entered the Jim Norick Arena for a grueling rail work, going through the paces of an extended jog with no-stirrups and even reversing at the jog.
With the rail work out of the way, Paige Stawicki laid down the first pattern of the night, riding Zippos Goodfellow. The 1994 red roan gelding was loaned to the Collegiate Challenge by owner Lisa Neiberger of Argyle, Texas. The son of Zippos Mr Good Bar was fresh off a ninth-place finish in the senior western riding finals with AQHA Professional Horseman Robin Frid of Denton, Texas.
Next up was Austin Griffith, the back-to-back AQHA high-point rider from the 2012 and 2013 IHSA National Finals. The Dublin, Ohio, horseman was mounted aboard Ginnin, a 2002 gray gelding owned by Lee Ann Ammons of Englewood, Colorado.
Third in the draw was Oklahoma native Katy Lynn Krshka, paired with RA Undisputed. Just moments before, the 2006 sorrel gelding was shown to a finalist placing by AQHA Professional Horsewoman of the Year Deanna Searles for owner Katherine Tobin of Scottsdale, Arizona.
And finishing up the AQHA Collegiate Horsemanship Challenge was Molli Jacobs, riding Credits For Heaven. The 1998 chestnut gelding was on loan for the night from owner Todd Neiberger of Denton, Texas.
When the chips were down and the dice were thrown, it was AQHA member Katy Krshka who triumphed with the 2013 AQHA Collegiate Horsemanship Challenge title. Katy was coached to the win by OSU head coach and AQHA Professional Horseman and judge Larry Sanchez, the 2013 NCEA coach of the year. Coming in reserve was Paige Stawicki, followed by AQHA members Molli Jacobs and Austin Griffith.
For Katy, who aided the Oklahoma State Cowgirls in their 2013 NCEA western national championship, the chance to compete in the AQHA World Show arena with her college colors on her back was priceless.
“I got to represent the entire college and my entire team,” the junior told the Journal. “To be able to go out there and represent them and do them proud, I felt, was a really cool thing to do.
“I was third to go in there, so I got to watch a couple and kind of plan out my lines,” Katy added. “Just walking up there, (RA Undisputed) was with me all the way. I asked to walk, and I felt like right then I knew he was trying to be a good boy.”
Indeed, being a good boy is something RA Undisputed has a bit of a reputation for. When Texas A&M's Carey Nowacek won the inaugural AQHA Collegiate Horsemanship Challenge last year, she did so riding RA Undisputed.
This year, executing a stunning pattern, Katy felt she and the sorrel gelding really kicked up it up a notch when they hit the U-turn halfway through the pattern.
“He let me turn him, loped right out, did the circle, changed leads, go fast and slow down and do that U, which was really fun on him,” she recalled with a chuckle. “He came off my rein and leg so good; he just turned right around there. Then, we did a square-corner jog and stopped and backed. He was really awesome.”
Katy was more than thankful for the opportunity to show such a high-quality American Quarter Horse.
“Thank you to the Tobins and Jim and Deanna (Searles) – he is an awesome, awesome horse,” she said.
“Thank you to everyone who donated horses. It wouldn’t happen without them and the AQHA Pro Horsemen.
“It’s so fun that we get to be able to do this and showcase our schools and our talents. Thank you to all the owners and trainers.”
The daughter of Tom Krshka and AQHA Professional Horseman Jackie Krshka, Katy’s youth career was a very decorated one, including reserve world titles in horsemanship, showmanship and hunt seat equitation, and even the 2008 hunt seat equitation world championship.
Katy made her debut at the Bank of America Amateur World Championship Show this year in amateur ranch pleasure riding Dis Dolls A Dun It, where the pair earned a ninth-place finish.
With all the things she learned as a youth, Katy says she has a laundry list of lessons to add to it from collegiate competition.
“Being able to do things on the fly definitely is one thing that I’ve learned,” she admitted with a laugh. “You may have a plan, but in a second, a minute it can charge.
“Ultimately, you’ve got to trust yourself for sure. You’ve got to trust your riding abilities and feel and never forget what you’ve learned. And foundation basics is imperative.
“Trust that and have confidence in your teammates, and I think you’ll go a long ways.”
Results from Rounds 1 and 2