April 26, 2004 -- Virginia Intermont College bested St. Andrews Presbyterian College by the narrowest of margins -- 0.78 of a point -- to nab the team title at the 27th Annual Affiliated National Riding Commission's National Intercollegiate Riding Championship, April 17-18, 2004, hosted by Sweet Briar College (Va.). Sweet Briar junior Karen Dennehy took home the title of individual champion riding Sweet Briar's Hocus Pocus.
Angee Quattro, Ericka Jewell, Siobahn Fitzgerald, and Morgan Graber rode for Virginia Intermont. The team competition was decided only after the final phase, hunter trials equitation. Virginia Intermont led after the dressage sportif phase, but a fourth place team finish in the second phase, the equitation course, left them trailing St. Andrews Presbyterian (Laurinburg, N.C.) by about 1.5 points.
"We were feeling the pressure," said Sue Glover, coach for Virginia Intermont. "But the riders were able to go forward, ride into a rhythm and hold it over the outside course. We won that phase hands-down, but didn't know if it was enough to pull ahead of St. Andrews."
Virginia Intermont won with 240.92 points to St. Andrews' 240.14. Goucher College of Baltimore, Md., amassed 233.33 points to place third overall in the two-day competition. St. Andrews sophomore Christina Kalinski earned the reserve individual title, while Sweet Briar College's Jodie Weber took third.
Kalinski, who rode a college-owned horse, found the competition very stiff, but appreciated her coaches' advice. "It was about riding your best rather than focusing on points or trying to beat another team," she said.
Individual champion Dennehy enjoyed the team aspect of ANRC competition. "The last few years, our coach Shelby [French] has really made it feel like a team so that it becomes a bonding experience, and you have so much support from your teammates," she said.
Dennehy finished first over Scot Evan's tough Medals-type course, which was "a lot of jump, turn, jump," said the junior from Ashland, Va. "You had to keep going and attack it, really keep a forward rhythm going, since there were so many rollbacks."
Virginia Intermont's top rider, fourth place individual Angee Quattro, said her team's consistency was key to their win. "We were floored that we won the flat [dressage sportif] phase because that was always our weakest spot," said the senior. "We don't have the fanciest horses; they're just good old boys. One is 23 years old."
Eleven schools sent teams of riders to this U.S. Equestrian-sanctioned event. Many, like Vanderbilt and Miami University of Ohio, were competing at Nationals for the first time. Anne Kenan of Dahlongea, Ga., and Dacia Funkhouser Johnson of Romney, Ind., judged the competition.
The National Championship showcases the American forward riding system and the sporting horse. Judged on equitation, it rewards diversified skills in a three-phase competition. Competitors complete a dressage sportif ride, a hunter trials (outside) course and a hunter seat equitation (Medal-type) course. They ride the same horse throughout the competition, and jumps do not exceed 3 feet in height. Riders also take a written test on riding theory and horse care, although that score is not factored into overall placings.
"As well as being the most fun competition we do, it's a great learning experience for me as a coach," said Glover. "It's such a complete test of horse and rider that you need to have strong, well-rounded riders on versatile horses. If they don't have a strong foundation and stabilization, over the three phases it will definitely show through."
The 2005 ANRC National Intercollegiate Riding Championship will be held at Sweet Briar College on April 16-17. For more information on ANRC, visit www.anrc.org.