Nigel Lancaster aboard Tinselena Spark during the run-off round. Photo by EQ Media.
Fairfield, Conn. – Oct. 01, 2020 – Twelve Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) Western High-Point Open riders took to the world stage in the IHSA Invitational Class held Sept. 29, during the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) World Championship Horse Show in Fort Worth, Texas. Nigel Lancaster from Hilliard, Ohio came away as champion after showcasing his skills in both the reining and horsemanship phases.
“The IHSA High Point Rider Versatility Championship was a huge success today just because it gave us a chance to highlight the best of the best that were shortchanged during the 2020 season,” said Amanda Ellis, IHSA Western Committee chair. “Not only did we have great horses given to us by the exhibitors at the World Show, but the caliber of riding was phenomenal.”
Ellis explained that with many member schools in the country not able to compete now due to COVID-19, she hopes they were able to watch the live stream and are excited and inspired for spring.
The class began with each of the 12 riders performing the reining pattern. The judges rewarded consistent riding on two different mounts and scores were tight after the initial round of competition, with the top three spots bringing in scores above 145.00 points. Lancaster and Ashton Knerr from Plain City, Ohio secured the top two spots with a tied score.
Lancaster rode to duplicate scores of 73.5, aboard Gunnataxya, owned by Deb Oneguard, for a total first-round score of 147.00 points. Knerr piloted Tinselena Spark to scores of 75.5 and 71.5, tying Lancaster’s score of 147.00. Hart Daniels, hailing from Vaughan, Mississippi, took third place on Starlight Driver (Hydrive Cat x Starlights Lynn), owned by Kelsey Delaplaine, just one point behind with 146.00 points.
Then it was time to switch mounts for the horsemanship phase. Riders showcased their abilities on the flat at the walk, jog, and lope both with and without stirrups. Competitors then piloted their mounts through a pattern demonstrating a smooth, effortless ride.
Grand Island, Nebraska native Matthew ‘Matt’ Graves rode to the win in the horsemanship phase. His consistent and polished riding aboard the 17-year-old paint gelding He Thinks He’s Special or “Eddy,” (Special Invitation x Zippos Gold Model), owned by Ryan Urech, stood out among the field. Travis Fortune from Booneville, Indiana took the second spot with A Krymsun Legacy (One Hot Krymsun x Zippos Satin N Lace), owned by Darcie Winiewicz, and Lancaster on Sensational Effects, owned by Amanda Bennet, rounding out the top three.
Knerr and Lancaster, who grew up riding together at Ollie and Debbie Griffith’s Autumn Rose Farm in Delaware, Ohio, rode the reining pattern once more to determine the overall class champion.
“Those two riders have been riding reining horses since they were 7 years old and they’re best of friends, they live within 15 minutes of each other,” said Ollie Griffith, IHSA National Associate Steward. “They’re just amazing. One went to the University of Findlay. One went to Ohio State. And it just couldn’t be better for us.”
Aboard Tinselena Spark (Tin Tin), Lancaster rode the final pattern in beautiful style earning the high score of 148.50. Lancaster’s third-place performance in the horsemanship phase helped secure the championship title.
Lancaster’s winning mount Tin Tin, an 11-year-old Quarter Horse mare (Tinsel Nic x Smart Sparkalena) owned by John McDaniel and handled by Cathy Luse, was awarded the High Point Horse title.
“I love how the two organizations came together and collaborated on this,” said Lancaster. “It’s really nice because we had to cancel the fall season and it was a great way to come and show together.”
Knerr rode the 5-year-old Quarter Horse gelding Gunnataxya (Gunnatrashya x Sannie Shine) for her run-off round. Her consistency in the saddle earned her a run-off score of 146.5 and a fourth place in horsemanship aboard Original Barbie, owned by Chris Russell, taking home the overall reserve call.