The Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) is excited to announce that competition has resumed to near normal levels of participation, with over 100 regular season shows completed so far this academic year. A full postseason is planned with the IHSA National Championship Horse Show returning after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. The much-missed championship event will be held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg May 5-8, 2022.
“We are off to a great start this season,” said Peter Cashman, IHSA executive director. “Our membership numbers are back and everyone is excited for our postseason.”
As in previous years, IHSA Nationals officials include some of the most respected professionals in the hunter seat and Western disciplines. Judges for this year’s competition include Gretchen Mathes and Allen Mitchels for Western divisions and Todd Karn alongside Tom Brennan for the hunter seat divisions.
“It’ll feel like coming full circle,” said USEF “R” judge Tom Brennan. “The IHSA is where I got my start in competing and to come back and judge it is a real privilege and an honor.”
Brennan was recently featured in the “Life Lessons 101,” an IHSA documentary that aired during Horse Network’s Horse Week. He has judged some of the most prestigious horse shows in the country including USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals, the USEF Pony Hunter Finals, the USEF Pony Medal Finals, Maclay Regionals and more. He attended Stonehill College (North Easton, Massachusetts) where he competed on the university’s equestrian team. He explained that being a part of that team was one of his favorite aspects of IHSA competition.
“When we competed, we were very fortunate to have made it as a team most years, and that was really exciting,” he said. “To this day, it is still one of the only team formats I’ve been involved in and it was really special, so I’m looking forward to that component. I really like that the most inexperienced riders are just as valuable as the most experienced riders in that scenario.”
Nationals is the culmination of teams and individuals from across the U.S. and Canada who have qualified throughout the academic year at multiple IHSA regular season and postseason competitions for the honor to participate. Many are doubly excited this year after being sidelined from the pandemic, including first-time IHSA Nationals judge Todd Karn. “This is my first year acting as a judge at this event and I’m very flattered,” he said. “I can’t wait to be back in that atmosphere of fun competition and camaraderie.”
Karn earned his “R” license in 1985 and has judged at some of the best horse shows in the country, including at Middleburg, Hampton Classic and the New England Medal Finals. From Fayetteville, New York, Karn is a longtime hunter/jumper professional and a former coach of the Cornell University Equestrian Team.
“I’ve judged Nationals several times, but it is always truly an honor to be there,” said Connecticut-based AQHA professional and judge Gretchen Mathes. “If I could give one piece of advice to all the riders getting ready to compete it would be to never stop riding. We judges see everything and we absolutely give credit to those riders we see doing their best no matter what the situation.”
Mathes is the owner and manager of Powder Brook Farm, a training facility in Harwinton, Connecticut. She has been training, showing and raising champion Quarter Horses for 50 years. Mathes has coached World and Congress champions in both Youth and Amateur classes. She is licensed to officiate with the AQHA, NRHA, NSBA, WCHA and has judged at every major show in the country. In 2007, she was named AQHA Horsewoman of the Year by the Professional Horseman’s Committee. Mathes also serves on the Nominations and Credential Committee for AQHA and as the AQHA Director from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and is President of CQHA.
Allen Mitchels hails from Michigan City, Indiana. He is the former president of the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) and the National Snaffle Bit Association (NSBA) and brings a wealth of knowledge to the judges’ box. He is a longtime advocate of horse welfare and the recipient of the NSBA Jack Benson award, presented annually to recognize individuals who promote NSBA, its mission and interest in the pleasure horse industry. Mitchels was instrumental in the development of the current language for the hierarchy of criteria used to judge pleasure events. He is the author of many educational articles about the judging process.
Mitchels has judged numerous world championships, including the Quarter Horse Congress, the Dixie National Championship, as well as major performance futurities and maturities in over a dozen different countries. Mitchels holds judges’ cards with NRHA, AQHA, NCHA, NSBA and NRCHA.
When Mitchels judged IHSA Nationals in 2018 he said, “The IHSA is a dynamic force that is very important to the future of the horse show industry. This is due to IHSA’s programs for co-educational participation, for beginner riders to the most experienced competitors. I am very happy to be involved as a judge.”
To qualify for the National Championship, student-athletes accumulate points at regular season IHSA shows to qualify to compete at Regional Finals. Then, the top individuals and teams move forward to hunter seat Zone Finals and Western Semi-Finals, with the top finishers continuing on to compete at Nationals.
Andrew Ryback Photography named the official photographer for the 2022 IHSA Nationals
Andrew Ryback Photography is known throughout the U.S. as a premier equestrian event and portrait photographer. Ryback and his team will be on site at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center to capture all the action.
“We’re so excited to be partnering with the IHSA as their official photographer in 2022,” Ryback said. “Many of our photographers have ridden in IHSA programs and they’re looking forward to photographing Nationals! We are pleased to be able to provide our unique product offerings and creative style to the IHSA competitors and organization.”
ABOUT THE IHSA
The Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) welcomes all genders at a range of riding levels and offers individual and team competition in hunter seat equitation, Western horsemanship, ranch riding and reining at more than 400 member colleges and universities. Membership in IHSA means that college students can participate in horse shows regardless of their experience or financial status. Students compete from beginner through advanced with suitable, provided horses, eliminating the expense of horse ownership.
Founded in 1967 by Bob Cacchione, it is the oldest and largest intercollegiate equestrian organization with 10,000 members in 47 states and Canada. IHSA college and university team participation is represented through a variety of programs, including varsity athletics, academic departments and club sports. IHSA offers valuable hands-on experience and professional development in multiple facets of the equine industry. Many IHSA teams participate in service projects, giving back to their communities. Through the IHSA, students enhance their college experience and develop the tools that help build successful careers.