Skidmore College Wins the Collegiate Cup USEF/Cacchione Cup And NRHA Individual Open Reining National Championships Awarded

Harrisburg, Penn.—May 6, 2018—Competition Saturday at the 2018 Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) National Championship Horse Show included tiebreakers and exciting outcomes. The Skidmore Thoroughbreds maintained a lead throughout the show and finished with 30 points, earning them the right to take the Collegiate Cup home to Saratoga Springs. Reserve champions Savannah College of Art and Design were just two points behind and Stanford University was third with 22 points.
Skidmore head coach Cindy Ford credited the teamwork of assistant coach Belinda Colgan and the rest of the staff for their success.  This group, she said, could work anywhere at the top of the industry. She also complimented her students for being academically strong, motivated and hard-working. The strong string of Skidmore horses also contribure to their success.
“I’m careful who I choose on my team,” Ford said. “We give them (the students) a lot of attention. I have an amazing group of horses that have been donated to us. They’re cared for as show horses. They have the best veterinarians, the best farriers and they mean the world to us. Between the horses, the staff and the students it’s just a no-brainer. And yet, It still does become the luck of the draw.”
Skidmore’s Clay, who produced many top rounds, was awarded the SmartPak Most Popular Hunter Seat Horse.

Judges Diane Carney and Tony Sgarlata determined that the format of the final work-off phase of the USEF/Cacchione Cup would be a challenging course over fences. In a major upset, Makayla Benjamin, a senior at Sweet Briar went from eighth place in the top 10 to win the championship. She drew Collins who was reserve champion, Mollie Kowalchik’s draw in the first phase.
Benjamin has ridden all her life and competed in the Big Eq. Both her parents rode in the IHSA and met while competing at Purdue University. She has been on the IHSA team all four years at Sweet Briar. This is her first time at Nationals.
“Over fences is always my stronger suit,” she said. “I was third after the first phase. On the flat I had a really good horse, Gunner, from West Point. I was just happy to come back to test with the top 10. I thought, ‘I can do this.’”

When Benjamin knew she had drawn Collins, she made the decision to make the handier turn to the trot jump. “He was a joy to ride,” she said. “It (the course) posed a lot of questions and I answered most of them right. I was shocked that I was actually in the top three.”
Benjamin is superstitious and tends to keep to a ritual before competing. She has a lucky pair of socks that she wore yesterday and didn’t have on for the final phase.
“I put a clean pair of socks on,” she said. “I guess it worked.”
Benjamin is a mathematical economics major with a double minor in business and engineering. She will spend some time working at Bitterroot Ranch, a dude ranch in Wyoming, before starting her corporate job in February.

Michael Janson from Boston University competed in the Collegiate Cup Open Equitation Over Fences. The judges selected the top four to test over a shortened course that included two changes of lead. Riding Maverick, owned by Savannah College of Art and Design, Janson set him set himself apart by holding the counter canter and turning to the right rather than the left. His choice earned him the judges’ nod and the win.
“There was the option to be creative, which I liked,” Janson said about his round. “The horse was great. The competition was spectacular."

Janson, a finance major from Berkley, Massachusetts, has ridden most of his life and has competed in the equitation and the jumpers. His family breeds and trains Zangersheide horses.
“Our team was really special this year—very horse-focused," Janson said. “Thanks to our amazing coaches., being a part of IHSA has made this special for my senior year. I wouldn’t have been able to compete at such a competitive level if Phyllis hadn’t coached me.”
“He is an unbelievable human being,” said Boston University coach Phyllis Cervelli. “He comes with a lot of mileage. We’re just working on tweaking that intercollegiate part of it.”
Cervelli said it has been since 2001 since Boston University has won a class at Nationals. Most years they send individual competitors but haven’t sent a team since the mid-90s. Janson’s win helped Boston University finish the Collegiate Cup in fourth place.

Morgan Knerr from University of Findlay and her best friend, Tyler Kirby from Ohio State University were tied at 148 points after their first reining pattern. The judges asked the two top contenders to swap horses and return for a showdown. Knerr, who rode Karen Black’s Brie in the first round mounted up on Gunny, also owned by Black. In the end, the judges gave Knerr the top prize.

  “She was so good,” Knerr said. “I knew it was a tough competition with Tyler. I know he’s a good rider. I was excited to go back in the arena and do it again.”
Knerr is a freshman studying pharmacy. She hopes to have a career in hospital pharmacy and continue riding. “Both my parents are involved in reining and I’ve grown up in the reining industry,” she said.

Before joining the University of Findlay, Knerr and Kirby rode at Autumn Rose with the Griffiths and competed together in the NRHA.
The IHSA National Championship resumes Sunday with the reining phases of the AQHA High Point Rider, the conclusion of the Western Individual and Team competition and presentation of the awards.



Young men and women from the U.S. and Canada have qualified to represent their colleges and universities in hunter seat equitation and Western horsemanship in a range of levels from Walk-Trot through Open, alumni championships, the USEF/Cacchione Cup, the NRHA Individual Open Reining final and the AQHA Western High Point Rider national final.


The IHSA was founded in 1967 by Robert Cacchione while he attended Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey. 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 member 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 more information go to or contact