Hardeeville, SC – The weather gods smiled on the American National Riding Commission (ANRC) the weekend of April 14-17 at their 34th annual National Intercollegiate Equitation Championships hosted by the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). While other areas experienced tornados and downpours, the Ronald C. Waranch Equestrian Center just outside Savannah, GA, in Hardeeville, SC, was spared. Fifty-two riders from 10 colleges were able to enjoy the beautiful facility, meticulously groomed arenas, challenging medal courses, and imposing new hunter trials fences.
The ANRC National Championship is a member event of the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) Affiliate Equitation Awards Program. The championship showcases the American Forward Riding System and the sporting horse. Judged on equitation, it rewards diversified skills in a three-phase competition. Competitors complete a dressage sportif ride, an outdoor hunter trials course and a USEF Medal-type hunter seat equitation course. Riders ride the same horse throughout the competition, and jumps do not exceed 3 feet in height. They also sit for a written test on riding theory and equine science. Teams may consist of two or three riders (with the lowest of the three scores dropped in each phase). Individuals also may compete.
For the first time this year, a Novice Division with fences at 2’6” was offered in addition to the 3’ Nationals Division. Seven colleges fielded Novice teams or individuals: Goucher College, Midway College, SCAD, St. Andrews Presbyterian College (SAPC), University of Georgia (UGA), The University of the South (Sewanee), and Virginia Intermont College (VIC). Midway, competing at their first Nationals, swept the Novice Division winning the team Championship over VIC. Midway’s twin sisters, Alison and Erinn Born, were Novice Individual Champion and Reserve.
Centenary College, Florida International University (FIU), Goucher, Midway, SCAD, SAPC, Sweet Briar College (SBC), UGA, Sewanee, and VIC all fielded Nationals riders. As first-time competitors, Midway, FIU and UGA all received scholarship in the form of ANRC memberships. SCAD in its fourth team win in as many years was champion in the Nationals Division over Centenary and VIC. SCAD’s Kels Bonham was the individual champion for the third time, besting her teammate Henrietta Armstrong.
Judges for the riding phases of the three-day competition were Bobbie Reber of Langley, British Columbia, Canada, and Caroline Jones, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Marion Lee, Leesburg, VA, judged the written phase.
Competition was preceded by two days of schooling, with riders from each college assigned times to practice with their coaches in each of the settings. Schooling began on Thursday, followed by the coaches’ meeting and written test Thursday evening. A welcome party for competitors and coaches followed. The Novice Division written test was won by SAPC’s Jennifer Callahan with a 96 over Goucher’s Addie Jabin. Addie was unfortunately unable to continue in the competition as her horse came up lame the first day. Goucher’s Amory Brandt scored a 98 to win the Nationals Division written test phase over Laura Hannink of VIC (who was the 2010 winner) with 97.2. Topping the team score for the Novice Division written test phase was SAPC with 186 points over Goucher with 175. Goucher’s Nationals Division riders upped the ante with a 195 team score over VIC’s 187.2. The written test phase is highly contested even though its results do not count in the final overall scores, because scoring 95 or above results in bonus points added to the other phases, and a score below 71 results in a deduction of points in the ridden phases. Seventeen riders scored 90 or above in the written test this year, up from 10 last year.
Friday’s Novice Division Dressage Sportif Phase was held in the beautifully manicured outdoor arena, which was flanked by an equally well-groomed and large warm-up ring. The test included two jumps and movements such as counter canter, serpentines, backing, lengthening strides, and turn on the haunches. Alison Born of Midway was the individual winner with Bailey Cone of VIC second. Midway was the winning team over SCAD and SAPC. The Nationals riders performed their Dressage Sportif tests (with a second counter canter and more difficult transitions) on Saturday. Katie Haley of Centenary was the individual winner over Henrietta Armstrong of SCAD. SCAD’s Nationals team bested Centenary in this phase.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny, thankful that the threatening storms had moved north and west. Coaches, riders, and spectators gathered by the far field to see riders and horses (still braided and sleek) negotiate a beautifully built course that took riders from the field into the ring and back out over walls, aikens, banks, and an optional ditch that comprised the Hunter Trials Equitation Phase. Midway’s Alison Born was the Novice Division individual winner over Mary-Ashley Marable and Bailey Cone – both from VIC. VIC secured the team win over Midway by one point. In the Nationals Division, SCAD’s Kels Bonham posted the win over teammate Henrietta Armstrong and Goucher’s Karli Postel.
Lunch was served to riders and coaches following the Hunter Trials Equitation Phase. Two special awards were presented: one to Peggy McElveen as the ANRC nominee for the USHJA Riding Instructor Award and the other to Marissa Cohen of Centenary College as the ANRC nominee for the USHJA Collegiate Amateur Award.
On Sunday afternoon, the Hunter Seat Equitation Phase, a USEF medal type course, was contested over a course designed by SCAD’s Chair of Equestrian Studies Andrea Wells, who also designed the Hunter Trials course. Spreads, combinations, and changes of directions challenged horses and riders. Midway’s sisters Alison and Erinn Born finished one-two over SCAD’s Taylor Brown in the 2’6” division, and Midway’s Novice team bested the SCAD and SAPC teams. In the Nationals Division, Goucher’s Karli Postel won by a narrow margin over VIC’s Lauren Hannick and SCAD’s Lydia Todd. Goucher’s team won (again by a narrow margin) over Centenary and VIC.
At the conclusion of the Hunter Seat Equitation, riders and horses gathered in the show ring for the final awards ceremony. A beautiful perpetual trophy sponsored by USEF was presented to the Novice team champion, Midway College. VIC was reserve, followed by SCAD and Sewanee. Alison Born was the Individual Overall Champion followed by her sister Erinn Born. VIC’s Hayley Bolton was third. SCAD won the Betty Belser Memorial Trophy as the National team champion, with Centenary reserve, VIC third, and Goucher fourth. Kels Bonham received the Jon Conyers Memorial Trophy and the USHJA Affiliate Equitation Award as the overall high point Nationals rider. Henrietta Armstrong was a close second over Karli Postel and SAPC’s Kimberly Graves. Marion Lee was awarded the ANRC nomination for the USHJA Professional Service Award. The awards ceremony was enhanced by special prizes donated by the competition’s many sponsors, including USHJA, Dover Saddlery, Low Country Saddlery, Charles Owens, Randy Roy, Hoof and Woof, and Bahama Joes. SCAD’s beautiful equitation mount Sculpture, who has participated on the winning SCAD team at seven ANRC Championships, was honored in a retirement ceremony.
Based on their scores in all four phases of the competition, eight riders received ANRC certification by mail following the event: SCAD’s Henrietta Armstrong, Caroline Ingalls, and Hayley Bolton; VIC’s Jordan Shelburne and Audrey Hanlon; Centenary’s Kelsey Bernini and Katie Haley; and Goucher’s Taylor Marcus. Five additional riders earned qualifying scores, but had already been certified in previous competitions or rating centers.
Coaches and competitors are looking forward to the 2012 Nationals competition, hosted by Centenary College in Long Valley NJ on April 20-22. For details, visit the ANRC website: http://www.anrc.org.