Mount Holyoke took first place in the seventh annual Intercollegiate Dressage Association national team competition Saturday, April 26, at the Mount Holyoke College Equestrian Center. In a tightly contested day of competition between 12 teams from as far away as Florida and California, Mount Holyoke triumphed with a final score of 36. University of Massachusetts finished in second place with 34 points, ahead of University of Florida with 29 points and University of New Hampshire with 28.
(L-R) Janne Matzner-Gore '08, Caitlin Calder '09, Emme Johnston '10, Asheley Ireland '08, captain; Rebecca Schurink, coach
Individual riders from 21 colleges and universities competed Sunday, April 27, including Mount Holyoke's Janne Matzner-Gore '08, Shannon Peavey '09, who finished fifth in the Introductory division, and Shoshana Lucich '10, who finished fifth in the Lower Training division.
The team victory was especially sweet for Mount Holyoke, because it meant regaining its status as national champion after three years of narrow misses for top honors. Mount Holyoke was champion at the first three national competitions, from 2002 through 2004.
Riding for the Mount Holyoke team were Asheley Ireland '08, team captain, at First Level, who placed fifth; Caitlin Calder '09 at Upper Training, who placed fourth; Matzner-Gore at Lower Training, who placed seventh; and Emme Johnston '10 in the Introductory division, who took first place. Johnston was also reserve champion high point rider for the day.
Ireland, from Westbrook, Maine, who has been to Nationals all four years and served as captain since sophomore year, was thrilled with her team's accomplishment. "Even though only four of us could ride on the Nationals team, I've never seen the whole team work so hard. I was confident going into this because we trained so hard for it," she said. "There was no way we couldn't do our best. We had so much support from so many people who made the show run smoothly, including members of the hunt seat equitation team, who really came through for us. All we had to think about was our riding. I knew if we didn't win it wouldn't be because we didn't bring everything we had."
MHC coach Rebecca Schurink echoed Ireland's gratitude for all the help the team received. "I believe that the outpouring of support from the entire team, their families, and the Equestrian Center staff helped strengthen all of us so we could excel at such an important competition." On behalf of the entire team, Schurink also expressed appreciation for the Equestrian Center's horses. "One of our most important ingredients for success in making talented, sensitive, thinking riders is having such wonderful horses," she said.
The Mount Holyoke team was awarded the new Beukema National Team Championship trophy, donated by IDA president Beth Beukema. "This trophy is a wonderful symbol of achievement for the winning team, and I am honored to present it," she said. The winning riders and coach also won new dressage saddles donated for the event by JPC Equestrian, one of the event's main sponsors.
Beukema had high praise for the Mount Holyoke students who hosted the two-day show. "The students have been phenomenal in putting this event together. We appreciate their dedication, hard work, and generosity. They have all multitasked and made it happen. Everyone from all over the country has enjoyed being here. It's a fabulous showcase for Mount Holyoke and the region. Every competitor feels very privileged to have been able to ride such quality horses."
The College was especially honored to host Michelle Hoffman '98, the primary founder of the IDA, who came from her home in Suffolk, England, to present a trophy in her name for the reserve championship team. "Having Michelle Hoffman here with us created a very special ambience all weekend," said Schurink. "She was my first team captain and always had a special way with the horses so that the team was very successful from the beginning. She continues to contribute to the sport and to the Mount Holyoke dressage team." Hoffman has generously donated her extensive equestrian book collection to the College.
Twelve teams competed for top honors, from schools as far away as California Polytechnic at San Luis Obispo and University of Florida. Michigan's Albion College, Virginia's Averett University and reigning national champion Virginia Intermont College, Centenary College from New Jersey, Otterbein College and University of Findlay from Ohio, and Washington State University also competed.