Local College Equestrians Head To Harrisburg For IHSA Nationals, May 3-6

Winner of the 2017 USEF/Cacchione Cup is Katherine Steiner from Centenary University with coaches Michael Dowling and Heather Clark, Bill Maroney and Bob Cacchione. Credits: Tyler Van Velsen
Skidmore College equestrian team celebrates victory in the IHSA Zone 2 finals. Credits: Skidmore College Equestrian Team
Centenary University Equestrian Team celebrates after winning the Zone finals in Long Valley, N.J. Credits: Centenary University

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania national Horse Show (PNHS) will welcome the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) National Championships to Harrisburg and the Farm Show Complex, May 3 to 6.

The IHSA is comprised of over 400 colleges and universities and 10,000 members across the U.S. and Canada.Teams are traveling to nationals from schools in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

The IHSA was founded so college students could have the opportunity to participate in horse shows, regardless of their financial status, gender or riding level. The IHSA offers both hunter seat and Western competition for both men and women from Walk-Trot through Open, including jumping and reining.

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IHSA shows provide top-quality horses and equipment for riders to compete with horses sight-unseen. The IHSA’s catch-ride format evens the playing field and promotes good horsemanship. Riding as a team is a unique experience for the competitors. The most experienced riders support the newer riders, teaching life lessons of collaboration and teamwork.

At this year’s Nationals 450 riders from colleges across the country will compete. Riders qualify for the IHSA National Championship Horse Show (Nationals) through a point system. During the year, team and individual contestants accumulate points at IHSA shows to qualify for the Regional Finals in their respective divisions. The top two riders in each class of the Regional Finals move forward to the hunter seat Zone Finals and Western Semi-Finals. The top competitors and teams in each class qualify for Nationals.

Eight Zone Finals were held April 7 and 8 and the top two teams and the top two individual riders from each division all qualified for Nationals. Many past championship teams will return and the roster includes teams from Skidmore, St. Lawrence, Alfred University, Centenary University and Penn State.

Centenary University aced their Zone Finals hosted at their equestrian center in Long Valley, N.J. The 2017 National reserve team champions led by coaches Michael Dowling and Heather Clark are consistently at the top of the IHSA results. They have many Cacchione Cup wins to their credit, including Katherine Steiner in 2017. Penn State University’s Equestrian team added to their impressive list of achievements and earned the reserve championship.

Dowling credits the success of the Centenary team to the strength of their program, the support of nine full-time faculty members and the depth and diversity of their horses. Training the team, Clark focuses on fine tuning position and Dowling focuses on effectiveness and the horse’s way of going. Their teaching styles complement each other and play a key role in the team’s success.

“If the rider is more comfortable riding warmbloods, we put them on a hotter type of horse so they can figure that out,” Dowling said. “When we have a rider that’s a little better on a Thoroughbred-type horse, then we try to get them more comfortable riding a big warmblood. We constantly try to change it up.”

Leading up to Nationals they will focus on where they were weak at Zones and do a lot of strengthening and work without stirrups.

“I’m really excited about the group of students that we have this year,” he said. “Every year we become more determined to put on a better show. Harrisburg is about as close to home as we get so we have a lot of volunteers coming. It’s going to be a fun event.”

The Skidmore College equestrian team took first place in the Zone 2 Championship team competition at the Bergen County Equestrian Center in Leonia, N.J. on April 8 to earn its 19th trip to the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association national championships.

Skidmore will be competing for its eighth national title.

At the zone finals, Hannah Tuckner maintained the Thoroughbreds' slim lead in the final team class of day with an exceptional ride to win the Open on the Flat.

The win finalized the team championship. St. Lawrence and Long Island University tied for Reserve Champion, but the tie-breaker worked in favor of the Saints and SLU will advance to the IHSA Championships with the Thoroughbreds.

Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) will be defending its 2017 national hunt seat title with the help of Ally Bates of Webster, N.Y. and Brady Martino of Easton, Pa. SCAD came away with the championship of Zone 5. The team will attempt to earn their fourth team championship at Nationals.

“Many of the junior riders competing at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show graduate from the junior ranks and go on to participate in the IHSA while in college. It is always fun to follow the careers of these talented riders,” said Susie Webb, executive director of the PNHS.

“We are so excited to return to Harrisburg for Nationals,” said Bob Cacchione, executive director and founder of the IHSA. “It is so special for our competitors to ride in the main arena at the Farm Show Complex because many of the country’s greatest riders have ridden and competed in the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Finals at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show. It is awe-inspiring.”

Established in 1946, the Pennsylvania National Horse Show hosts the country’s top competitors in one of the largest indoor horse shows. Proceeds from the horse show benefit The Pennsylvania National Horse Show Foundation, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization, providing support for therapeutic riding and equine rescue programs. The Foundation makes grants exclusively for charitable and educational purposes to acquaint, teach and train the public in therapeutic equestrian endeavors and to support equine rescue efforts. Make plans to join us Oct. 12 to 21, 2017 at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA.  For more information on the show or to donate to the Foundation, visit

The IHSA was founded in 1967 by Robert Cacchione while he attended Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J. The organization was established so that any full-time college student could participate in equestrian competition regardless of economic status, gender or riding level and offers Hunter Seat and Western competition at eight levels from Walk-Trot through Open divisions for both male and female college athletes. The IHSA emphasizes learning and sportsmanship and fosters teamwork. The organization has grown to include 400 college teams and 10,000 members encompassing 39 Regions, 8 Zones and 45 states and Canada. College or university teams, individuals, alumni and coaches may become members.

For additional information about the IHSA or the Nationals, go to  or contact

Teams/Riders Headed To Nationals

Zone 2

Hunter Seat Champion Team — Skidmore College

Walk-Trot Equitation — Julia Berger-Bailey

Walk-Trot-Canter Equitation — Alison Santucci

Novice Equitation on the Flat — Sheriden Beard

Novice Equitation Over Fences — Sheriden Beard

Intermediate Equitation on the Flat — Maeve Foley

Intermediate Equitation Over Fences — Mara Chemerinsky

Open Equitation on the Flat — Hannah Tuckner

Open Equitation Over Fences — Maeve Foley

Zone 2

Hunter Seat Reserve Champion Team — St. Lawrence University

Walk-Trot Equitation — Emily Green

Walk-Trot-Canter Equitation — Elissa Baldwin

Novice Equitation on the Flat — Elizabeth Trexler

Novice Equitation Over Fences — Julia Bronson

Intermediate Equitation on the Flat — Lily Barnard

Intermediate Equitation Over Fences — Caitlin Doocy

Open Equitation on the Flat — Chelsea LeMoine

Open Equitation Over Fences — Merle Beach

Zone 2

Western Team — Alfred University

Beginner Western Horsemanship — Vanessa Virgilio

Intermediate Western Horsemanship — Emma VanDyne

Novice Western Horsemanship — Taylor Soderholm

Advanced Western Horsemanship — Kristie Wagner

Open Western Horsemanship — Haley Ruffner

Open Reining — Haley Ruffner

Zone 3

Hunter Seat Champion Team — Centenary University

Walk-Trot Equitation — Emily Valerio

Walk-Trot-Canter Equitation — Lauren Bradshaw

Novice Equitation on the Flat — Nicole Arnold

Novice Equitation Over Fences — Nina Leeds

Intermediate Equitation on the Flat — Andrew Pryslak

Intermediate Equitation Over Fences — Angela Cammarata

Open Equitation on the Flat — Michael Andrade

Open Equitation Over Fences — Michael Andrade

Zone 3

Hunter Seat Reserve Champion Team — Penn State University

Walk-Trot Equitation — Ryan Toole

Walk-Trot-Canter Equitation — Tresa Gundermann

Novice Equitation on the Flat — Nicolle Wolf

Novice Equitation Over Fences — Nicolle Wolf

Intermediate Equitation on the Flat — Samantha Hurley

Intermediate Equitation Over Fences — Sabrina Mercadante

Open Equitation on the Flat — Elizabeth Traband

Open Equitation Over Fences — Elizabeth Traband

Western high point rider

Zone 2 Region 1 — Haley Ruffner — Alfred University

Zone 2 Region 2 — Sarah Ricker — University of Guelph

Zone 2 Region 5 — Aubrey Braham — Slippery Rock University

Zone 3 Region 1 — Seth Rice — Penn State University

Cacchione Cup Contenders

Zone 2 Region 1 — Claudia Freeman — Rochester Institute of Technology

Zone 2 Region 2 — Allison Epstein — Syracuse University

Zone 2 Region 3 — Hannah Tuckner — Skidmore College

Zone 3 Region 1 — Elizabeth Traband — Penn State University

Zone 3 Region 2 — Alicia Weismann — Rider University

Zone 3 Region 3 — Skylar Laakso — Centenary University

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