IHSA National Finals: May 3

Berry College of Georgia is the western national champion team at the 2015 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Finals.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

AQHA Intermediate Horsemanship National Champion, Amanda Petersen from Berry College. (Credit: Journal) Scroll down to view more photos.

The Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Finals wrapped up May 3 with the naming of the AQHA High-Point Rider and Western High-Point Team.

Keeping It In Perspective

Even though winning the 2015 AQHA High-Point Rider Champion title is the ultimate accomplishment, Selena Finn from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was focused on simply enjoying the ride.

“The most important thing for me was to go out and have fun. I’m just a freshman,” she said.

Her maiden trip to the IHSA National Finals was one to remember. After finishing fifth in Phase 1 of the competition on May 2, she came back May 3 with an impressive reining performance aboard Lance.

“I loved the horse I drew for my horsemanship ride. He reminded me of my old horse,” Finn said.

Lance, a horse described as honest, worked well for her.

“My stops and spins went really well. I could have pushed him a little harder, but overall it felt like a good ride,” she added.

The judge’s rewarded her with a 143, the highest in the class.

“Selena has an impeccable work ethic,” said Lori Jaixen, Selena's coach.

Riders competing for the AQHA high-point rider title compete in horsemanship and reining, with cumulative scores determining the champion. The competition lasts two days, with two splits each of horsemanship and riding.

McKenna Coveney from California State Polytechnic University Pomona finished as the reserve AQHA high-point rider. After Phase 1 of the competition, she sat in fourth place. She came back with a strong ride on May 3, earning a 140.5 in the reining phase to finish as reserve champion.

“IHSA provides goals and opportunities for college riders of all levels regardless of their previous experience in the horse world,” said Anne Brzezicki, an AQHA director and coach at Middle Tennessee State University. “The partnership with AQHA connects college riders with the leading horse organization in the world and gives them perspective on the size and importance of the industry.”

Western High-Point Team

Berry College in Mt. Berry, Georgia, won the team western national championship.

“It’s exciting to win the title. You always want success for every kid you coach,” said Margaret Knight, head coach at Berry College. This was the second time since 2011 that the school’s team has walked away with the title.

The team's path to earning high-point team started with an early win in the AQHA Novice horsemanship by sophomore Mariel Wrench aboard Shorty Talls.

“I just kept calm and had a real nice ride,” she said.

Amanda Petersen’s first-place finish in the AQHA Intermediate horsemanship added to the team’s early lead.

“Red was a superstar horse. We worked really well as a team. It didn’t feel like the first time we rode together,” she said.

Each rider on the team contributed to clinching the Western High-Point Team Championship. AnnaLee Cooley was the reserve champion in the AQHA advanced horsemanship, Ashlyn Clay finished eighth in the AQHA beginner horsemanship and Elizabeth Poczobut earned fourth place in both open horsemanship and open reining.

Knight and Debra Jones Wright, an AQHA judge and the team’s assistant coach, describe this year’s team as a “golden group” of girls who truly love the horses.

“It’s not just about winning. They are so kind to each other. All weekend they’ve been talking about how cute or sweet the horses they draw are,” Jones Wright said.

The team had a special fan in the crowd cheering them on. The college’s athletic director, Tom Hart, traveled to Massachusetts to support and encourage them.

“I try to do all I can to support our student athletes,” he said, “I’m a former golf coach and the last college I worked for didn’t have an equestrian team. It’s impressive that they have to work with a teammate, a horse that they have never met before.”

For the second year in a row, the University of Findlay claimed the reserve western high-point team title.

Horse of the Year

Colonel Pepenator, the 2015 IHSA high-point western horse

It came as no surprise that Colonel Pepenator, aka “Peppy,” a 14-year-old stallion and National Reining Horse Association competition horse, earned the Nutrena High-Point Western Horse title. Owned by the State University of New York at Oswego, the horse was the favorite draw among riders.

“Peppy is an awesome horse. My whole ride was the best I’ve ever felt,” said Kendall Dudenhoeffer, who rode the horse to the championship finish in the AQHA beginner horsemanship.

Peppy performed his best for every rider he was paired with.

“He was a good draw and we had a great pattern,” said Carina Marsh, who rode Peppy in the rail portion of the high-point rider event.

When Peppy wasn’t in the rail classes, he was running, sliding and spinning his heart out in the reining.

“He’s a phenomenal animal. He does everything from upper level reining to beginner walk-trot in our lesson program,” said Dan Bergstresser, coach at SUNY Oswego, “I’ve never had a horse with that much heart in my life. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime horse.”

The NRHA High-Point Reining Horse was Little Red Boomernic, aka "George," who is owned by the Morrisville State College Western Equine Group. The 1999 sorrrel gelding by Boomernic and out of Little Red Peppy by Mr San Peppy is known as an easy lead changer and he carried several riders to solid finishes in the reining classes.

In 2016, the IHSA National Finals heads to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky.

Journal Coverage of the 2015 IHSA National Finals

  • May 3 – Berry College of Georgia is the western national champion team at the 2015 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Finals.
  • May 2 – Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia named the 2015 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association English Team Collegiate Cup Champions.
  • May 1 – Western events kick of Day 2 of the 2015 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Finals in Massachusetts.