The American National Riding Commission Championship, held April 19 and 20 at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., pitted nine colleges against each other for the ANRC’s national title. Thirty-three riders competed.
Sweet Briar’s ANRC coach Shelby French called the Vixen’s third-place win “hard-earned.” In one of the event’s closest finishes in French’s memory, Savannah College of Art and Design took the title with just 0.12 points over the reserve champions from the University of Virginia.
Riding for Sweet Briar’s team were Katie Davilli ’09 on SBC’s Braveheart, Alison Sims ’09 on SBC’s Hatrick and Sarah Fishback ’10 on her horse, Almond. Riding as individual competitors were Morganne Young ’11 on SBC’s Cassie, Allison Wynn ’11 on SBC’s Renaissance and Kathryn Brock ’09 on her horse, Paloma.
The ANRC national championship is a four-phase horsemanship test, including a written exam on riding theory and stable management. Scores on the written phase between 70 and 94 percent don’t affect a rider’s competition total. Riders scoring below 70 have two points deducted from their overall scores, while those earning 95 percent or better gain a point. Sweet Briar won this phase as a team, with good individual performances.
Each college is allowed three riders per phase. To arrive at the team scores, the riders are judged individually, then the lowest score is dropped and the top two averaged to arrive at the team total.
In the second phase, riders compete individually in a dressage sportif ride that incorporates many of the U.S. Equestrian Federation hunter seat equitation tests. The movements are evaluated by two judges independently and the scores are averaged to account for 40 percent of the rider’s overall score.
“The quality of the horses and riders were the absolute best I have ever seen at this competition,” French said. “It just keeps getting harder and more competitive.”
Sims was third behind two UVa riders, who attained 37 percent or better of the 40 percentage points available. “[That’s] unheard of in this competition,” French said. “Alison had the ride of her life for sure.”
Sims went on to finish the competition in fourth place in the individual standings.
Davilli also had a strong second phase, despite competing on a horse she’d never ridden until days before the competition. Nassau, her mount all season, became lame as the team was readying to ship to Sewanee. Scoring 32.80 on Braveheart, Davilli’s performance helped SBC to finish the phase in second, just six points behind UVa.
The final two phases are jumping events judged on equitation. Each is worth 30 percent. The first is an outside field course of 3-foot fences, the other a 3-foot medal course in the ring. The judges evaluate the riders independently from different vantage points, and the average of the two scores determine the points earned.
French said Fishback, riding Almond, rose to the occasion on the outside course, scoring a 92 and an 86. Her 89 average put her in second place in the phase’s individual standings. Davilli averaged an 82, and their combined performances led to a third-place team finish in the event.
But the Savannah College team, with “two spectacular performances,” according to French, moved into second place ahead of SBC.
“We went into the final phase still in third place but Goucher [College], Centenary [College New Jersey] and St. Andrews [Presbyterian College] were breathing on our heels. We knew we weren’t going to be able to catch the two front runners but we were determined to hold on to third place,” she said.
“And we did because Alison Sims and Katie Davilli pulled it out and finished in sixth and fourteenth spots in the order, but the scores were so close together that this was enough.”
The Vixens’ doggedness impressed the coach.
“It was certainly rewarding for me to see each and every rider put in a solid performance and even when they made mistakes not allow it to throw them off for the next phase,” French said.