Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Stanford Wins Reserve National Championship

The Stanford Equestrian Team: 2013 Reserve National Champions
Harrisburg, PA: The Stanford Equestrian Team traveled east to the historic Harrisburg Farm Show Complex for the 2013 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Finals, held from May 2-5. Over three days of competition, seven riders from the Cardinal’s hunt seat squad competed over fences and on the flat, working to defend eight consecutive years of top ten finishes at the IHSA National Finals. The group was comprised of three sophomores, three first year riders, and just one senior member of the team who had shown at previous National Finals.

The team competition began on Thursday, May 2 with rides by freshmen Holly Grench in Novice Fences and Bailey Martinez in Intermediate Flat, as well as a showing by sophomore Erin Gray in Novice Flat. All three riders put in solid rides, but it was Grench who walked away with a ribbon after her smooth round over fences. Even through Grench is in her first year on the team, she showed her poise by adjusting to the small step of the horse she drew, earning a strong score of 79.5 and a seventh place finish. Gray and Martinez both had nice rides on the flat, but in the large, competitive classes they were not in the top ten.

Also on the first day of competition, sophomore and hunt seat team captain Claire Margolis took to the arena in Individual Open Fences and Flat. Like the rest of the team, Margolis had spent almost the entirety of April working without stirrups, and her preparation showed on the flat when she picked up a fourth place while competing against some of the top riders in the country. Although Margolis had the unenviable position of drawing first in the go for her fences round, she posted a respectable score of 79, which held her in the top ranks until the last few rides but ultimately put her in twelfth place.

Senior Alison Smith in Intermediate Fences (on her first draw)

Heading into day two of competition on Friday, May 3, the Cardinal had yet to post any points on the board, and so the team watched with great anticipation as senior Alison Smith headed into Team Intermediate Fences. Smith was fourth to go in the order and was in the midst of a smooth and forward ride on Goucher’s Gandhi when he spooked halfway through the course and attempted to spin his rider out of the tack. Smith was undeterred, and when the stewards granted her a reride, she found her new mount, came up with a quick plan, and completed a lovely ride that scored in the 80s and earned her a seventh place. Again, however, Stanford had finished one place away from earning a point in the team competition.

Things weren’t looking up for Margolis's luck as she proceeded to draw the #1 spot again for the Cacchione Cup medal class on Friday (Margolis was making her second appearance in the Cacchione Cup, having finished third in 2012 as a freshman). Showing her maturity and poise, Margolis didn’t let the pressure ruffle her and proceeded to put in a confident, smooth, and polished ride that earned an impressive score of 83. The score held her in first place for quite some time, and by the end of 37 rounds Margolis had only dropped three points off the leader, ending the jumping phase with the seventh highest score. When she drew a thin, narrow flat horse the judges scored her conservatively and she finished twelfth in the overall Cacchione Cup Finals, won by Centenary College's Cori Reich.

Although the team had a nice collection of ribbons at the halfway point in the competition, it still had posted zero team points on the board. After lunch on Friday, it was senior Eliza Richartz's turn to show in Team Walk Trot. Richartz was a nationally ranked sailor who spent three years on Stanford's varsity sailing team before walking on to the equestrian team a year ago, in April 2012. Although she was new to the sport and had only finished third at the Zone 8 Finals in Parker, CO, Richartz's work ethic—which led her to ride seven days a week, many times more than once a day and often without stirrups—showed through when it counted most. Even though Richartz had only shown eight times in her career, she rode like a pro, picking up her diagonals and navigating her mount expertly through traffic. As the awards were announced and places called backwards from tenth, her teammates' excitement mounted. When she was announced as the national champion, the entire team let out a loud cheer.

“Our long history of success in Walk Trot shows just how much we value all levels of riders at Stanford,” head coach Vanessa Bartsch said after the win. “Eliza’s dedication was unparalleled and it was so gratifying to see her succeed after so many hours of training with the coaching staff and her teammates at home.” Stanford's success in Walk Trot extends back through the years: Alex Jacobs won national champion in the class in 2009, Elise DeBuysser took reserve champion in 2010, Elise Menke took third in 2007, and Theresa Field took fourth in 2006 (Karen Lone also won the national championship in the Walk Trot individual class).

Stanford's two national champions, Eliza Richartz and Tori Greenen, celebrate with head coach Vanessa Bartsch

The team barely had a moment to celebrate Richartz's victory as sophomore Tori Greenen entered the arena next for Team Walk Trot Canter. Greenen started the season with only nine points in the division and only having showed four times for Stanford. In addition, as a key member of the Stanford dressage team’s postseason squad, she has been one of only two riders showing in two disciplines this year: indeed, she had showed in Lower Training at the Intercollegiate Dressage Association National Finals the weekend before IHSA Nationals, where she finished tenth. Greenen showed off her multi-disciplinary background in Team Walk Trot Canter, putting her horse on the bit and executing an expert ride in a chaotic arena. Though she had ridden a nearly perfect class, all her teammates were holding their breath as the announcer worked his way up the placings. When Greenen was awarded the team’s second national championship, they let out a huge roar in celebration. Greenen's hard-fought points, combined with Richartz's, had moved the team all the way from sixteenth to third place for the day.

Heading into the last day of hunt seat competition on Saturday, only Margolis had yet to make her team class appearance in Team Open Flat and Fences. She calmly walked her course and prepared to draw, confident that she could not pull a third #1 position (the odds of this were over 1 in 9,000). When she looked at her number and saw that it was first again, she didn’t let it phase her, marching in and putting in a beautiful fluid round on Centenary’s King that scored her an 85, as score that would hold until late in the class and would ultimately earn her a third place and four points for Stanford. Going into the last class of the competition, Team Open Flat, Margolis remained focused on the task at hand and drew another Centenary horse, Dennis. In one of the most competitive classes of the show, the judges (Anne and Bobby Braswell of Florida) proceeded to work the riders for 15 minutes without stirrups. Throughout her ride, Margolis looked strong and polished. The judges agreed and awarded her fifth place, giving Stanford two more points and the honor of Reserve National Champion.

Sophomore Claire Margolis in one of her many Open Fences rounds, aboard Centenary's King

“Claire was the model of what a coach hopes her captain will be: calm, focused, incredibly hard-working, self-sacrificing, supportive, and joyful in all of our team's success,” Coach Bartsch said. “I’m so incredibly proud of this entire team and all they accomplished through their hard work and perseverance.” In addition to the team's ribbons and medals, Bartsch was also happy to get a custom tack box from Flexi Equine Trunks as well as reserve champion jackets from the IHSA.

This is the second time Stanford has won reserve champion honors, the first being back in 2006. Unlike the squad in 2006, which was almost all seniors, this young Cardinal roster showed its strength and promise for the future, with riders placing in the top seven in six out of eight classes. The team now looks forward to celebrating the season at the annual year-end awards banquet in late May before transitioning into summer team practices in June.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Stanford Wins Eighth Consecutive Zone Championship

Stanford's Zone champion team

On April 6 and 7, the Stanford Equestrian Team traveled to the Colorado Horse Park in Parker, CO for the IHSA Zone 8 Finals. Riders from the 54 teams located in Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and British Columbia traveled to Zone 8’s Region 5 to compete in individual and team competition over the weekend, vying for team and individual berths to the IHSA National Finals.

Sophomore Claire Margolis winning Individual Open Flat
The Cardinal got off to a strong start with sophomore Claire Margolis (already qualified for the National Finals as Region 1’s High Point Rider for the Cacchione Cup Medal Finals) competing in Individual Open Fences and Individual Open Flat. The Open division saw top riders from the west coast, including Medal/Maclay national finalists, and Margolis put down a solid round over fences, earning her a callback for the work-off. The judge (Lucy McKinney “R,” FL) had the top riders swap horses and do a shortened course, and after a nice ride Margolis earned reserve championship honors. On the flat, Margolis drew the warmblood gelding Linus and had a stellar ride, finishing on the top of the line up and claiming Stanford’s first championship of the day. 

Senior Alison Smith in Team Intermediate Fences

The team competition got underway with senior Alison Smith in Team Intermediate Fences. Smith drew a tricky horse who was a bit anxious over the first fence but then settled into a polished and forward round and was called back for the work-off where she did a good job on a new horse, finishing third. Smith also rode on Sunday in Individual Intermediate Flat, where she finished fourth in the large class.

Sophomore Tori Greenen, champion in Team WTC

Sophomore Tori Greenen was next to go in the team competition, riding in Team Walk Trot Canter. Greenen is Stanford’s only equestrian athlete competing in two disciplines for the postseason (she is riding in Lower Training for Stanford’s dressage team at the IDA National Finals over the weekend of April 27-28). She had an exemplary showing in her hunt seat Zones berth, winning Stanford’s second blue of the day. 

Freshman Bailey Martinez in Team Intermediate Flat

Greenen was followed by freshman Bailey Martinez, competing in her first postseason (as one of three first-year riders on the Cardinal’s postseason squad) in Team Intermediate Flat. Martinez did an excellent job with her mount in the very competitive class and finished second, adding five points to the board for Stanford.

Sophomore Erin Gray was last to go on the first day of competition, riding in Team Novice Flat. Gray drew the same horse as Margolis and put in a very polished round, excelling at the sitting trot and earning her the team’s third championship. Her win helped Stanford close out the first day of competition with a small lead (3 points) over the nearest teams, the hosts Univ. of Colorado, Boulder and Cal Poly Pomona.

Margolis winning Team Open Fences (with no stirrups)

Margolis was first to show for the team on Sunday, April 7 in Team Open Fences. She drew the only jumper in the class and did a good job navigating the course, gaining an invitation to work off in the competitive class. Rather than swapping horses, the judge asked the top three riders to remove their stirrups and return to jump a course. Margolis, always the first rider on the team to offer to ride without stirrups in practice, showed that the hard work pays off when she had a flawless round and clinched her second championship of the weekend.

Freshman Holly Grench in Team Novice Fences

Freshman Holly Grench was up next in Team Novice Fences, where she drew a horse who was quite strong (after going twice without riders without stirrups in the previous classes). Grench had a strong ride, making great, educated choices on course, and ended up with a call back for a work-off. There she rode the shortened course smoothly and finished second.

Senior Eliza Richartz, riding in her first year on Stanford’s equestrian team (after spending three years on the sailing team), made her postseason debut with her ride in Team Walk Trot. Richartz showed that she is a quick study in this exciting and difficult class, nailing all of her diagonals and finishing a very respectable third, in the process helping the Cardinal maintain its lead.

Heading into the last class of the day, it was Margolis, showing in her fourth class of the weekend, who batted clean up. Though the Cardinal was out to a strong lead, making them mathematically certain of a win or tie for first, Stanford’s team captain showed her strength, riding a green 6-year-old warmblood to reserve champion honors.

Champion and Reserve Champion Teams

At the end of the Zone Finals, Stanford had secured its eighth consecutive Zone Championship, giving the team the longest active winning streak of any team at a Zone finals in the country. The seven athletes on the postseason squad showed their dedication and hard work, particularly in light of the fact that this year's team is comprised of three first-year riders, three sophomores and only one experienced senior (though Margolis, Gray and Smith have all competed in at least one previous postseason). Margolis, who finished third in the Cacchione Cup Medal Finals at the 2012 National Finals, will move on to compete in five classes (Individual Open Flat, Individual Open Fences, Team Open Flat, Team Open Fences and the Cacchione Cup Finals) at the 2013 National Finals, the only rider in the country to do so.

Stanford's hunt seat squad now turns to preparing for the IHSA National Finals on May 2-5, while the dressage squad heads off to the IDA National Finals on April 27-29.

Zone Champ Stanford and Res. Champ UC Boulder celebrate

Monday, March 11, 2013

Strong Season Finale for Stanford Western

A few weeks after Stanford's hunt seat and dressage teams wrapped up their respective seasons, the Cardinal's western squad put an emphatic finish to its roundup of shows for the 2012-2013 regular season at Davis on March 2. Able to field a full team for the first time all season, Stanford western finished the show with Reserve High Point Team, showing the solidity of its small contingent.

Stanford Western - with coaches Jana Cain and Emily Cramer - bask in a successful weekend

The Davis show began with a pair of top Stanford finishes, as freshman Carson Kautz took first place in Open Reining with junior and team captain Laura Benard right behind in second. The win was the second in a row for Kautz, who drew a hot, difficult mount and executed a series of expert slides. In Open Rail, Benard continued to show the strength of Stanford's open riders, taking another second place on her way to securing High Point Rider honors for the day after winning Reserve High Point Rider at the last show on February 2.

Freshman Carson Kautz winning in Open Reining

In Advanced, the ever-consistent freshman Maria Filsinger (crossing over once again from the dressage team) took third place. Stanford's string of top ribbons continued as sophomore Anne Stickells and junior Alina Benavides, both showing in Novice after pointing out of Intermediate earlier in the season, took second place in their respective sections of the class. They were soon joined, more or less, by senior Julia Ishiyama, who pointed out of Intermediate with a strong second-place finish in the class. Finally, the day culminated with Walk-Jog, in which freshman Catie Mong put in an excellent ride on a non-western-trained horse and showed her showing poise after only her first year of competing.

Junior and team captain Laura Benard after a strong ride in Open Reining

In addition to winning Reserve High Point Team honors and finishing only a few points behind the High Point Team, Stanford also had three riders compete on March 2 as individuals in the only regional championship class of the season. Ishiyama, Benavides, and Stickells all rode in the large, competitive class of eight riders in Intermediate, finishing 1-2-3. Ishiyama, who won the regional championship, opted not to advance to Western Semifinals in Kentucky on March 23. Benavides and Stickells will go in her stead, vying for spots at the IHSA National Finals in May.

Sophomore Anne Stickells, who rode in both Novice and the regional championship Intermediate class

Meanwhile, since Ishiyama is the lone senior who will be graduating from the team this year, the rest of Stanford western looks forward to a strong and competitive 2013-2014 season. All photos in this post courtesy of Maria Filsinger.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Second Consecutive Regional Championship for Stanford Dressage

Stanford's dressage team headed to UC Davis for a doubleheader show on February 16 and 17, the last show weekend of the regular season. After a competitive pair of shows and a race to the finish for regional points, the team emerged with its second consecutive regional championship for IDA Region U. After tying with Cal Poly for the championship in 2012 (and after a tiebreaker that did not go in Stanford's favor), the successful weekend and regular season means that Stanford Dressage will make its first trip to IDA Nationals in April.

After the riders drew their team of horses (called "sheep" in homage to Davis' agricultural focus) on Saturday, senior Kristen Malinak started Stanford's day off on the right foot, earning a 70.7% on the 22 year-old Arab Bailey to land her firmly in first place in a large and competitive division. Freshman Maria Filsinger, competing as an individual in First Level, rode the colorful Ohelo to a respectable second place behind Malinak with a 69.2%.

Freshman Maria Filsinger and Ohelo at First Level

Senior and team captain Patrick Freeman rode beautifully on what turned out to be a very challenging ride in the Upper Training division for a fourth place finish. Next up was multi-talented sophomore Tori Greenen (who also rides for Stanford's IHSA hunt seat team) in Lower Training. Greenen put in a solid ride on a somewhat reluctant mount to finish in second place in her division.

Sophomore Tori Greenen in Upper Training

Finishing the day in style was graduate student Monika Huss, who again showed that any horse can become a dressage horse by giving the Western-trained Sassi the ride of her life to finish with a strong second place in Intro. At the end of the day, Stanford finished in first place, maintaining its lead for the regional championship.

Sunday brought a tougher day to the Stanford team, but not for Malinak, who proved her ability to ride any mount -- regardless of size -- by earning a solid third place at First Level aboard Butterscotch. Filsinger rode the aptly named Fire to an energetic fifth place finish in that division. 

Senior Kristen Malinak and Butterscotch showing some stretchy trot

Freeman again suffered somewhat from the short end of the draw stick, but managed again to ride with tact and empathy on a challenging horse to finish in fourth -- and earning a well-deserved 8 for his rider score.

Senior and team captain Patrick Freeman shows the working trot for the judge

Unfortunately for Greenen, some confusion with the IDA rules led to a withdrawal from her Lower Training ride. However, her ride on the feisty Johnny was well executed, and examination of her test showed many 7's and 6.5's. To close up the day in customary excellence was Huss, who rode Raiza to a strong second place finish in Intro. At the end of the day, Stanford finished in a respectable fourth place. 

Graduate student Monika Huss and Raiza showing off their walk-trot skills

However challenging the results on Sunday, the regional point race -- or the summation of each team and individual's performance over their four best shows of the five this season -- left Stanford in the lead as regional champions of Region U. Furthermore, senior Kristen Malinak ended the year as First Level regional champion, and graduate student Monika Huss earned the title of regional Intro champion as well. The team now turns to training for the IDA National Dressage Championships in late April, where it is eager to represent the Cardinal at its first-ever dressage Nationals appearance.

Champions of Region U: Greenen, Huss, Coach Rachel Williamson, Malinak, and Freeman (from left to right)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Stanford Wins Eighth Consecutive Regional Championship

Stanford with regional championship trophy

After winning the last pair of regular season shows for the year, both held at Stanford on February 9 and 10, the hunt seat squad of the Stanford Equestrian Team cemented its place at the Zone Finals by winning its eighth straight regional championship. The final standings after the seven shows of the 2012-13 season are as follows: Stanford (269pts), Davis (168), Sonoma (153), Santa Cruz (131), Cal Poly SLO (121), Berkeley (82), and Santa Clara (64).

Sophomore and hunt seat captain Claire Margolis wins second Cacchione Cup honors

A key scoring member for the Cardinal was sophomore and hunt seat team captain Claire Margolis. In addition to her pair of seconds on Saturday and pair of firsts on Sunday, Margolis handly won the Cacchione Cup High Point Rider honors for Zone 8, Region 1 (by over 30 points), in the process securing her second straight trip back to the IHSA National Finals, where she finished third in the Cacchione Cup Medal Finals in 2012. Margolis was also named USHJA Zone 8, Region 1 High Point Rider for the year after accumulating 86 points in Open Fences and Flat. Most remarkable was the fact that those 86 points resulted after Margolis placed no lower than second in any of her 14 flat or fences showings this year.

Senior Nicoletta Heidegger winning Open Flat

Also earning points in Open was senior Nicoletta Heidegger, who won Saturday's Open Flat class on Meera Clark's Oscar in the last show of her Stanford career. Though Heidegger has been busy with various responsibilities throughout her Stanford career, most recently serving as Stanford's official mascot (the "Tree"), she showed that she still has the competitive edge that earned her a trip to the National Finals for the Cardinal in 2011. Joining Heidegger and Margolis in Open Flat were junior Taylor Siebel and sophomore Lindsay Douglass, who each made their debut for Stanford in the ribbons.

Freshman Bailey Martinez on Susan Crenshaw's Cannoli

Freshman Bailey Martinez also finished her regular season with a strong show. By winning a pair of seconds in Intermediate Flat, Martinez maintained her record of securing only top two placings in the class throughout her entire rookie season. With her third and fifth place in Intermediate Fences, she also found herself on the USHJA High Point Rider year-end list, placing fifth in the region in her debut year.
Joining Margolis and Martinez on the USHJA top ten was another first-year rider, freshman Holly Grench, who came in sixth, just two points behind Martinez. Grench had a great weekend at home, winning her Novice Fences division on Saturday and then Novice Flat on Sunday. Grench's strong showing all season long, including High Point Rider honors at UC Davis, helped contribute to her top ranking. Her teammate and fellow Novice competitor, Erin Gray, took a pair of thirds over the weekend in Novice Fences and Flat, landing her in seventh place on the High Point Rider list.

Freshman Haley Harrington on Stanford's Jackson

Stanford racked up more wins with a first place from freshman Haley Harrington in Novice Flat. Though Harrington showed only four times in her first season, she also had the distinction of placing first or second on the flat in every outing (which put her on the USHJA top twenty list!). Also adding wins for the Cardinal, sophomore Tori Greenen put in a strong ride on Stanford's Toby in a very competitive Advanced Walk Trot Canter division. Her win kept her in the ranks of Margolis, Martinez, and Harrington with a season comprised of only first or second place finishes.

Freshman Bella Peyser also had a nice pair of rides, earning points in Novice Fences and Flat with a third and a sixth. She was joined on the tally board by sophomore Ellen Kettler, who took third on the flat. Fellow first-year team rider, sophomore Veronica Patterson, drew Lando in the last class of the weekend and managed a solid fourth. Patterson's freshman teammates, Hannah Grace and Simone Nelsen, also put in good rides with Grace taking a third place. Senior Gladys Delgadillo showed in her last class as a Cardinal and had a nice trip on Sylvester.

Senior Eliza Richartz on Toby

Finally, in Walk Trot Stanford was exceptionally strong. On Saturday, sophomore Wei Ling Heng took her final bow in the class ranks before heading off to study abroad in Oxford during the spring, finishing with a blue ribbon. Heng's teammate, senior (and first-year rider) Eliza Richartz, finished second on Saturday but quickly rose to the occasion on Sunday by riding to the win on Stanford's Toby. She was joined by teammate and sophomore Natasha Aguirre, who also finished in the ribbons both days.
By the close of the show on Sunday, Stanford had secured:
Team Regional Championship
Cacchione Cup Championship
4 of the USHJA Top Ten Riders
6 USHJA Top Twenty Riders
9 Academic All-Americans
6 Regional Champions (Margolis, Open Flat & Fences; Ali Smith, Int. Flat; Heng, WT; plus Alina Benavides and Anne Stickells in Western).

The next stop in the postseason for the hunt seat team is the Colorado Horse Park in Parker, CO on April 6 and 7 for the IHSA Zone 8 Finals.