IHSA National Finals, May 4

The Ohio State University won the 2014 IHSA western national championship.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

The final day of IHSA Nationals featured multiple Individual and Team Horsemanship events.

The Ohio State University won the team western national championship May 4 at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championship in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The University of Findlay finished a close second.

“We haven’t placed below third place in horsemanship at this year’s national finals,” said coach Cindy Moorehead. “I’m really proud of our team. Four of our six riders are freshman this year and we have more time to keep working.”

Both teams were within one point of each other all day May 4, the final day of competition.

“We’re always within one or two points of the University of Findlay and here we are again coming down to the last class,” said Ollie Griffith, coach of The Ohio State University, before the results for the final class were announced.

To date, Ollie has coached 10 OSU teams to the western national championship title.

“To me, this win is a piece of history,” he said.

Austin Griffith, Ollie’s son, played a critical role in securing the team’s win, with a reserve champion finish in the open horsemanship class. With the team’s title hanging on his shoulders, Austin was eager to accept the challenge.

“I’d rather have the pressure on me than someone else,” he said. “I’m used to having that kind of pressure, and a beginning rider shouldn’t have to feel the weight of the whole team on them.”

Sophomore Michelle LeMaster won the AQHA intermediate horsemanship earlier in the day, which added to the team’s momentum.

“I rode a little before coming to college, but nothing at this level,” she said. “I am so blessed to have good coaches.”

Ohio State isn’t an equestrian school, Ollie pointed out.

“We’re the second largest university in the United States, but people come to OSU to be doctors and lawyers,” he explained.

Team members work hard, riding three to four days a week, and are reminded that their top three priorities are maintaining good grades, riding horses and boyfriends/girlfriends in that order, Ollie added.

In IHSA competition, riders compete on six different levels in western competition, depending on their experience, ranging from beginner walk-trot to open reining. Riders randomly draw for horses, and they are not allowed warm-up time.

“We work as much on our riders’ mental frame and getting them to believe they can do anything,” said Debbie Griffith, who works closely with husband Ollie in coaching the team.

AQHA High-Point Western Rider
West Texas A&M University senior Julia Roberts had a national championship-event of a lifetime. She clinched the AQHA High-Point Rider title, as well as the championships in AQHA open horsemanship and the National Reining Horse Association open reining.

“To have multiple blessings in one day is kind of overwhelming,” she said of her wins.

She was also awarded the Equestrian Coach Achievement Award that includes a one-week internship with AQHA Professional Horseman Tim McQuay of Tioga, Texas.

“This is a great way to go out,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier.”

She admits that the show pen at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex is the biggest pen she’s every competed in.

“It’s an incredible feeling to ride in a pen that large,” she said.

The AQHA High-Point Rider award requires riders to compete in both horsemanship and reining, with cumulative scores determining the champion. The competition lasts two days, with two splits each of horsemanship and riding.

After the horsemanship phase on Day 1, Julia led the competition with Austin Griffith a close second.

“I knew going into Day 2, I was sitting second and that the high score in reining (Julia’s) was 146.5,” he said. “I knew I had to pull something out.”

In the end, Julia’s cumulative score secured her the championship.

“I felt confident and prepared for each event,” she said of her rides.

Horse of the Year
Zipped By Awesome, “Zoey,” took western horse of the year honors. The 2000 sorrel mare is by An Awesome Mister and out of Good Miss Zippo by Zippos Mr Good Bar. She was bred by Bill Rinzema of Keene, Ontario.

Two years ago, AQHA Professional Horseman Larry Little contacted good friend and coach of the St. Andrews University (North Carolina) equestrian team Carla Wennberg and asked she would be interested in taking the mare into the school’s riding program.

“Her owner was an amateur rider who had double knee replacement surgery and couldn’t ride anymore,” Carla said. “Zoey is precious is every way and is perfect for beginning riders and very accelerated riders.”

Riders who drew Zoey credited much of their success to her willingness to please.

“She was the biggest sweetheart I’ve ever ridden,” said Michelle LeMaster from Ohio State University who rode the mare to her win in the AQHA intermediate horsemanship.

The University of Findlay’s Sarah Shedd piloted Zoey to her win in novice horsemanship.

“Zoey was a great ride, she was so smooth and did everything I asked,” she said. “I couldn’t have had a better draw.”

English Events
English competition wrapped up May 3, with Centenary College in New Jersey named the 2014 English Team Collegiate Cup Champions.

Alexandra Carlton from the University of Vermont won the prized Cacchione Cup for English riders.