2012 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships: The Pinnacle of a College Career

Never before in its 39-year history had an Intercollegiate Horse Show Association hunter seat team coach won two IHSA National Championships for two different colleges or universities.


But that was before Mary Drueding. 

Drueding, already selected by the IHSA nominating committee to receive its Lifetime Achievement Award, demonstrated an irrefutable argument in defense of her coaching excellence and expertise as her St. Lawrence University Saints hunter seat team clinched the IHSA Collegiate Cup during the 2012 National Championships, May 3-6, at the Hunt Horse Arena of the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.

Kels Bonham, 2012 Cacchione Cup winner. Photo by Al Cook.

Hunter Seat Results

In 1989, while assistant coach for her alma mater, Drueding (’83) and Colby-Sawyer College made their first IHSA National Championship appearance. In 1991, she was made head coach and, three years later, under judge George Morris (one of Drueding’s personal heroes) Colby-Sawyer again had the IHSA National Championship-winning team. Drueding was inducted into the Colby-Sawyer Hall of Fame in 2007.

“This has been a totally exciting day,” she said. “I have a great school behind me and it was easy to put together a good group of riders. At St. Lawrence, we have a small — twenty-five riders — team that commits itself to the sport year and sacrifices to advance the greater good of college horsemanship. I am very lucky that St. Lawrence recognizes that.”

“I am so pleased for Mary,” said Skidmore College Thoroughbreds coach, Cindy Ford, whose hunter seat team are IHSA Collegiate Cup reserve national champions for a second consecutive year. “Mary and I shared reserve last year. She’s such a good horsewoman, with such an amazing sense of humor, and such extraordinary skill, I am happy to be reserve to her. She is so deserving of this achievement.”

Hunter seat judges Chrystine Tauber and R. Scot Evans praised the overall caliber demonstrated throughout the classes: “We were very impressed with the quality of riding and horses, and kept reminding ourselves these were not riders on their own horses.”


St Lawrence Team 2012 IHSA Hunt Seat Champions. Photo by Jessi Thorne (Miami University of Ohio).

For the USEF/Cacchione Cup, Tauber and Evans called back three finalists — Claire Margolis (Stanford University), Kelly Campbell (Skidmore College) and Kels Bonham (Savannah College of Art and Design). It was Bonham’s second and – as a graduating senior — last try at the Cup after having finished reserve in 2010. Margolis, a freshman, was making her first appearance for a national title.

The California rider’s cool confidence earned her third in the nation in the 2012 USEF/Cacchione Cup, while the title and reserve boiled down to Campbell on Centenary College’s bay, King, and Bonham, on a Virginia Intermont chestnut named Sampson.

And like the heroic feats of its namesake, Bonham and Sampson emerged victorious from their last trip before the judges, clinching the 2012 USEF/Cacchione Cup with a total of 253 points. Campbell and King earned reserve with a final 242.5 score.

“I loved my horse,” said Bonham. “I prefer one that performs a little more forward and he was really nice.”

“She’s stayed open to learning,” said SCAD coaches, Andrea Welles and Ashley Kelly. “She can ride many different horses and be super on all of them.” They also credited Bonham, as SCAD team captain, with setting a positive example. “She is always encouraging of others to enjoy their college riding experience. She’s been great with the lower level riders and it’s been a pleasure to have her for four years.”

Western Results

“We looked for horsemanship and could feel it here at these championships,” said Western judges Gretchen Mathes and Betsy Tuckey. “The horses have been excellent, and consistently schooled well, and for a college event we have seen nothing but a high level of enthusiasm and dedication.”

Thanks to the collegiate format, both judges emphasized how much pleasure they took in not just judging the “best pattern” but the “best executed” ride. Tuckey added, “We were looking for ‘feel,’ and horsemanship. We can see when a rider has to put more into their ride, as they had to on Saturday evening during the thunderstorm.”

Mathes agreed, “We can see when a horse is difficult or nervous. But we can also see when real horsemanship comes into play and when ‘the dance’ works.”

Dancing their way to the top of the AQHA Trophy Western Team Championship leader board were coach Dawn Ross and her Oregon State University Beavers, after twice (2011, 2009) finishing reserve. 
“I am so unbelievably proud to be a part of this team, and so happy for our Western group,” said Beavers rider, Jennifer Becar. “Those guys worked hard and won lots all season so this couldn’t end on a better note.”

The 2012 AQHA Western Team reserve championship went to Ohio State University and coach Ollie Griffith. For Griffith, possibly the greatest reward was in family pride, as son Austin Griffith delivered an early Mother’s Day present earning the AQHA High Point Western Rider title as well as the Open Reining Championship, Open Western Horsemanship (AQHA Trophy) Championship, and Open Western Horsemanship (Individual) Reserve. 

“There are really no words to describe this,” the OSU sophomore said. “I’ve wanted this for as long as I can remember. It’s one of the classes I wanted to win before I graduate. I had some very good horses, and the nice thing about growing up part of an IHSA team is that it always feels like family. Next is winning the NRHA Derby and getting our team back to Nationals in 2013.”

The NRHA Open Reining Pattern Championship went to Griffith’s Ohio State teammate, Elisabeth Bianco. Josh Clevenger, of Black Hawk College, earned the reserve championship on an Ohio State reiner, Pancake.

Champions All

In addition to recognizing Coach Drueding with its Lifetime Achievement Award, the IHSA selection committee chose this year to award its special Pioneer Award to St. Andrews University (formerly St. Andrews Presbyterian College) coach and equestrian program director, Peggy McElveen. McElveen was also the IHSA Zone 4 show coordinator and driving force behind this year’s championships in Raleigh.

“Peggy inspires, educates and serves as a role model for excellence. Her service to St. Andrews University, the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, and the greater equestrian community have impacted and changed numerous lives for the better,” said St. Andrews University equestrian faculty and coach, Jackie Dwelle.

St. Andrews Western team coach, Carla Wennberg, received the IHSA 2012 Nationals Coach Award for outstanding sportsmanship. “Her horsemanship is extraordinary and thoughtful, her sportsmanship honest and fair, and her attitude professional and positive,” said award nominator, Kathleen Mosca. “She helped lead the organization of gathering the western horses for Nationals, and keep all the processes necessary for Western Nationals to properly perform.”

The 2012 IHSA Nationals Volunteer Award went to barn coordinator, Jennifer Sansbury. “Jennifer,” said nominator Ashley Duda, “has done everything from meeting vans at midnight to help resolve issues throughout the show. She has a smile on her face no matter what.” Sansbury is former IHSA coach for Coastal Carolina University. “She was not currently coaching a team but decided to volunteer her time to support IHSA.”

Among the guests to the IHSA championships who observed how tenets of good horsemanship and sportsmanship are important throughout all equine communities was Kevin Price, chief executive officer of the United States Pony Club.

“Young people who are involved in horses and get to ride in college have the chance to gain quality ‘soft skills,’ like better communication, responsibility and teamwork. These are skills that employers want. IHSA and USPC share similar values and a foundation in team rapport and leadership.”

It’s a message that has resonated. “I had never seen this arena with so many banners and signage,” said judge Tauber. “IHSA is to be commended for having presented a first-class event.”

For 2013 and 2014, the IHSA is pleased to announce its National Championships will be hosted in Harrisburg, PA. For more information and complete results and points charts for the 2012 IHSA National Championships, please see represents 36 Regions in 8 Zones with over 376 educational institutions in 43 states and Canada, and serves over 8600 riders in Hunter Seat Equitation and Over Fences, Western Horsemanship, and Reining.

Its mission — to promote competition for riders of all skill levels, who compete individually and as teams at regional and national levels — based on the principle that any college student should be able to participate in horse shows regardless of his or her financial status or riding level, has earned recognition with the USEF Humanitarian Award, USHJA Presidents Award, and Pfizer/American Horse Publications Equine Industry Vision Award.

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