College riding is about more than teams and year-end titles. The Intercollegiate Horse Show Association has always understood that the importance of its mission--making college riding available to any and every student who wants it--is in how horses touch our lives forever.
While some IHSA riders, like three-time USEF Horseman of the Year and US Olympic Show Jumping Individual Bronze and Team Gold medalist, Elizabeth 'Beezie' Madden ('84 valedictorian Southern Seminary--now Southern Virginia University) and US Olympic Show Jumping Individual and Team Silver medalist Greg Best ('86 Penn State) have reached the pinnacle of equestrian sports, others have taken their IHSA experience closer to heart, training new generations of horse and rider talent, and even saving lives.
Meet some of the remarkable teams, riders and alum of today's IHSA:
LIU CW Post Hunter Seat Team's True Story of Hope
At the start of the Fall14 semester, the Long Island University CW Post (Brookville, New York) Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) hunter seat team asked itself, "What are our goals?" For a four year-old, palomino Miniature mare, the answer was not only life-changing, but life-saving.
"One goal," explained rider Christina Cepeda, "was to rescue a mini pony from the New Holland Livestock Auction, one of the largest slaughter auctions in the country. That includes getting the word out about horse slaughter and the horrors of the auction."
On Oct. 13, Columbus Day, the team--which trains at North Shore Equestrian Center--became owners of a young mare they have named Hope: "She will be our mascot, attending shows and school-related events. We want to spread her story to as many people as we can.
"We bought her for $175. George Bakos, the father of one of our captains, was our driver (to New Holland) and did the bidding, as the auction can give women bidders a difficult time. One of our captains, Cristina Bakos, has six rescued animals (an OTTB, an old Amish cart horse, three Minis and a mule) along with a terrier puppy who had been used as a bait dog. It was Cristina and her dad's idea initially to rescue a pony for the team. It seemed far-fetched at first, but we had such support from the school, barn and our families that it turned into reality."
Hope passed her vet check in time to debut with her IHSA team at LIU Post's Homecoming Weekend in October: "We were blessed to bring Hope to Homecoming with us. After what was the craziest bath I've ever been a part of (it took five of us to bathe her) she was back to her palomino self. We were a little nervous as to how she would react to the crowds, but once she got there, she got into the zone and was perfect. She let children come up to her. They gave her treats, took pictures, and played with her probably a little more than they should have. She was an angel through it all. The team...along with half the school... fell in love."
Quest of a Lifetime for IHSA Alum and Daughter at PHA Invitational
It was the win--and story--of a lifetime for Camille Lieberman, her mom Nina, and a rescue pony called Quest for Camelot at the First Annual National Professional Horsemen's Association (PHA) Invitational, Oct. 24-26, at Centenary College in Far Hills, New Jersey. Because not so long before, the 18 year-old Warwick (New York) High School senior and her nine year-old Spanish Mustang mare had both been fighting for their lives.
Today, Camille and Quest are the 2014 PHA Invitational Low (2'9”) Jumper Champions, and their victory gallop was matched only by mom and trainer Nina Lieberman's unabashed happy dance shared ringside with Bob Cacchione, on hand as executive director representing the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) as a PHA Invitational Gold level sponsor.
Nina, who captained the 1984-89 IHSA team at William Patterson College and runs a lessons and a therapeutic riding program at 45-stall Whisper Wind Farm, joked that her daughter learned the rhythm and balance of good equitation in utero: “I rode throughout my pregnancy.”
Camille and Quest's achievements, however, are entirely their own.
“She's in Pony Club, and this past season, between high school and PHA Finals, she and Quest participated in USPCA Games demonstrations at the Kentucky Horse Park, Central Park (NY) Horse Show and President's Cup at the Washington International Horse Show.
“I'm in such awe of her as a rider. I've introduced her to dressage, hunter/jumpers and fox hunting, but know nothing about Pony Club Games. Running vaults and exercises? That's all Camille. When she graduates she wants to be a Marine. My daughter,” she said with a laugh, “is a bad-ass!”
Camille's brave demeanor hid more than a rider's soft spot for animals (Whisper Wind is populated by rescues from horses to dogs to barn cats). For much of her life, her immune system's natural fortitude had been suppressing an inheritable condition usually identified by infancy: Cystic fibrosis.
CF, or mucoviscidosis, is an inheritable disorder, mostly affecting the lungs and leading to difficulty breathing and frequent infections. At 17, Camille's CF had begun to aggressively reveal itself, progressively worsening her condition until the vibrant equestrienne weighed just 93 pounds and was coughing up blood. At first, doctors feared lymphoma; it was not until a nearly last-resort lung biopsy, urged specifically by Nina, that CF was identified.
“It was the last thing they expected to test for. We were so fortunate to have New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center nearby, whose Center for Acute Respiratory Failure is one of the foremost in the world for treating CF. They confirmed in 15 minutes what Camille's problem was.”
The bad news was CF. The good news was that it was manageable, and the strong immune system Camille had otherwise inherited had proved incredibly effective until now at keeping CF at bay in its young host, who was determined to keep riding.
“We have been so lucky to have a managing physician like Dr. Emily DiMango, who gave Camille the okay to ride in the Finals, and pulmonary/critical care expert as Dr. Selim Arcasoy, who initially diagnosed her. He was amazing. He asked how many horses she rode on a good day, and Camille told him two or three. So throughout her antibiotics treatments, he asked her to try and ride more, maybe three to five horses, and if he could share photos of her jumping Quest with his 10 year-old daughter, because they might give her courage when riding, too.”
Camille's recovery has been as inspiring as that of her Spanish Mustang.
Whisper Wind's 45 acres are no stranger to rescue horses and ponies that Camille retrains and sells, often to USPC families, before turning her profit around to rescue the next in need. While scrolling an online catalog of animals whose unfortunate fates had led them to the pens at Camelot, she found a Spanish Mustang mare and knew “she was it.”
The seven year-old tricolor pinto mare was neither the best-sized (cataloged at 13.2 hands, but closer to 14 hh), healthiest (she arrived sick with shipping fever), prettiest or best trained (her only demonstrated aptitude was for rearing over backwards).
That didn't stop Camille, who asked her mom, “Who else is going to fix her, if I don't?”
Nina said, “There's no question that Quest knows she is rescued. She's a team player. She learns in big chunks. She can be very smart and very stubborn, but so can Camille. Once Quest realized if she was good, they'd get to have fun, she said okay let's go. They've done hunter paces, fox hunting, trick or treating and camping!”
At the PHA Invitational, Camille and Quest shared one more unforgettable achievement: Making the cut from 14 qualifiers in the PHA Invitational Low Jumper Championship to the top four in the jump-off. First to go, the teen and her Mustang also proved first to finish.
“Somehow she's always known this pony would be special,” her mom said. “She told me she named her Quest for Camelot after the notorious auction so that, 'When she's famous, people will know that you can get a great horse or pony as a rescue if you know what you're doing.'”
Nina is proudest of her daughter for championing kindness: “When Camille realized the PHA class had a purse she asked, 'If I win this, can we put it towards rescuing another horse?' "
“There's a fresh truckload of mustangs arriving in November. We'll be looking.” As for Quest? Nina assures she has a forever home. “Camille's goal was to give her a purpose and place in life. She'll be fine. She's a great baby sitter and confidence-builder for every rider she carries.”
Kama Godek: 4x IHSA National Finalist Soars in WIHS Puissance
The College of Charleston hunter seat team and coach, Bob Story, are riding high as IHSA National Finals reserve Collegiate Cup champions, but they're not the only CofC equestrians soaring to the top of the show world: Meet CofC ('01) alum, four-time (1998-2001) IHSA National Finalist and Washington International Horse Show Puissance rider, Kama Godek.
“I graduated with a BS in Business Administration in eight semesters, taking two Fall semesters off to work for Katie in France,” Kama explained, referring to three-time American Grand Prix Association Rider of the Year, USEF Whitney Stone Cup awardee and international show jumping rider, trainer and coach, Katie Monahan Prudent.
“I went to IHSA Nationals four times, with top 10 placings every year in either Open Flat or Fences. I'm not very good at keeping records of old school results, I just know I received an individual ribbon each year!”
Growing up in Fairfax, Virginia, she said, “My parents were not horse people and didn't really understand horses, so I was always pushing for more. After a lesson with George Morris when I was 14, he recommended I go to Katie for lessons because she (and Plain Bay Farm) were somewhat close by. My parents couldn't afford horses so when I was in high school, Katie gave me some to show during the winter when she went to Florida and I stayed in Virginia. It was a great opportunity.
“When I went to college, the riding I did was at Storybook Farm through the IHSA team and eventually I went to Europe to ride on AIEC (International College Riding) teams. I showed in pretty much every western European country and in 2004 got to coach a team in Japan. After my junior year, Katie was looking for a home rider back in France (Rosières aux Salines, operated with husband, Henri) and I put classes on hold so I could work and ride overseas.”
After graduation and having worked for Prudent for several years, she went to The Netherlands, taking a "traditional" job in Financial Consulting in Amsterdam: “I could still ride and compete after work, and maintain my goal of riding in the big classes. After trying that for a few years I decided I'd rather have a bad day with horses then a good day in an office and went to Florida to work for (US Olympic Show Jumping team Gold Medalist) Laura Kraut.”
By Spring 2007, Kama returned to Europe to start her own equine sales business.
“I lived in Europe for 13 years and have kept my dual citizenship. I would have never been able to work my way up in the US the way I was able to in Europe. Competition fees in Europe are lower, shows are closer and the quality is extremely high. By participating amongst the best, I was able to grow and learn.”
Kama has gone from intercollegiate catch rides to her own competitive partners: “Air Force One is currently my best competition horse. I have several others coming up. My job is buying and selling horses, so it's like organizing a sports team. I have sold horses ridden by (2011 Show Hunter Horseman of the Year) Scott Stewart and the world's top-ranked FEI show jumping rider, Scott Brash of Scotland.”
Another horse in her training, Apollo Mission, is owned by a Junior client. “I found him in Germany about a year and a half ago to be a first horse for a girl coming off a pony who wants to move into the 3'6” Children's and eventually the 4'-4'6” Junior Jumpers.”
Kama and Apollo Mission are social media stars thanks to their Puissance video from the 2014 Washington International Horse Show, but Apollo began stealing the show well before: “When I qualified for WIHS, Grand Prix riders were allowed to take two horses. Of course I would take my number one horse, Air Force One, to use in bigger classes like the President's Cup. (They placed sixth.) Then I asked his owners if I could use him for the Costume Class. That went well so I decided to ride him in the Puissance. I had only jumped him for the first time four days before and it was probably was a little risky, but I trust him and had been coaching him from the ground with my client since last year. He is super brave and has a kind soul, so I knew he would do it and the owners agreed. He is for sale and that Puissance video has given him more exposure!”
Dividing her time between Virginia and Wellington, Florida, this IHSA alum also has an internationally competitive strategy mapped out: “Since graduating, I have slowly and steadily traded horses so that I am able to compete in shows like the HITS Million in Saugerties (New York) and World Cup classes like Harrisburg (PA), Washington and the National Horse Show (Kentucky).
“I'm aiming at qualifying for the World Cup Finals in Las Vegas. On the North American East Coast League standings, I am still sitting within the top 10 (the top seven qualify). There are several shows yet before a final list is determined in March. Fingers crossed, I go to Vegas.”
Should Kama find herself trading horses in a World Cup Final ride-off, those years of Intercollegiate catch-riding might even put the Vegas odds in her favor. Learn more about Kama and her sales horses and program at www.show-jumper.com.