From left to right are Ava Spielman, Gigi Spence, Leah Hale, Stacy Klein, Kimberly Kovacik, Sonia Alfandre and Terra Peter, each of whom competed at the November 5th hunter seat Alumni Show at Heaven's Gate Farm in Pipersville, Pennsylvania. This was one of four shows to take place at Heaven's Gate this fall through that date.


If you live in a part of the country where the IHSA held Alumni Classes over the past 50 years you are probably aware that the IHSA ended formal alumni classes at their events effective with the conclusion of the Spring 2023 Zones Competitions. Riders who technically qualified for 2023 IHSA Nationals, either through Zones or the Western Semifinals events held in March, took part in championship classes at the annual Alumni Tournament of Champions instead of the IHSA Nationals competition in Lexington, Kentucky. Last May 20th (English) and 21st (Western) the ATOC took place at the United States Equestrian Team headquarters in Gladstone, New Jersey for the third year in a row. The Nationals classes were added to this event, with these classes kicking off the morning each day.

And then the weekend in NJ was over. No more official IHSA alumni classes. But the founders of the alumni tournament series had been mulling over what to do for several years should this dreaded day arrive. And even a few others had ideas as well.

Noted New Jersey-based equestrian writer and author Nancy Jaffer published a story on the alumni's new venture on November 30th (visit her site at and scroll down to that date) which tells the evolution from a few years ago (when some in the IHSA raised the red flag that Alumni were taking rides away from undergraduates at regular season shows) into a new beginning for the fall of 2023 better than this writer could hope to do. ATOC founders Lena Andrews and Jamie Windle are quoted, as is IHSA Founder Emeritus Bob Cacchione. Fans of the alumni and those who are interested in competing in the new alumni classes should tip their Western hats and English helmets to IHSA Alumni Director Tammy Cranouski. A former rider for Westfield State University and long-time alumni rider, Cranouski applied for non-profit status under the name Alumni Equestrian Events or AEE. It is under this banner that alumni classes for former IHSA riders are held during the regular season in 2023-24. While still remaining the Alumni Director on the IHSA's official executive board, Cranouski is also part of the new alumni executive team according to Jaffer's story, which is now made up of ten individuals. The 2024 Alumni Tournament of Champions will be held in New England for the first time, taking place at the Mount Holyoke College Equestrian Center in South Hadley, Massachusetts on June 1st and 2nd. With the ATOC having merged with AEE Cranouski has played a large part in the ATOC taking place in Massachusetts this season.

If you ever competed in the Alumni Tournament of Champions series you probably have met either Jamie Windle (on left) or Lena Andrews Licata (on right) or both. But at those events you would not see them dressed to compete! On December 18th of last year Windle and Andrews competed in one of two regular-season alumni shows held during the 2022-23 season. Through November of 2023 Andrews Licata has shown twice in the Alumni Equestrian Events series this season.

The Alumni Equestrian Events web site went live sometime in the summer of 2023 (which can be found through a link on the Campus Equestrian home page; Look on the left side underneath links for the official IHSA, IEA and IDA pages. Visit this site if you want to sign up and enter the shows). According to the site the first-ever AEE hunter seat event took place at Phoenix Rising Farm in Milford, New Jersey on the early date of August 20th. The first AEE Western event appears to have taken place at St. Mary of the Woods College in St. Mary of the Woods, Indiana on October 7th. These events can be held as unique shows or as part of some other kind of horse show. Several have been tacked onto the beginning or end of an IEA event or a local unrated show. On September 30th there was a non-IHSA horse show held at a Winery in Pennsylvania during which two AEE hunter seat classes were included. There is even the possibility of AEE classes being part of a regular IHSA show, such as with those at St. Mary of the Woods on multiple occasions so far. For insurance purposes it appears the IHSA classes must run consecutively, with the alumni classes insured separately either before or after the IHSA ones.

(Though the AEE is new for the current season there were two actual in-season hunter seat alumni shows held in 2022-23. These shows were closer in spirit to the post-season Alumni Tournament of Champions than a regular IHSA event. This is because there were 'Reunion' classes for alumni who had not shown at an IHSA event during the fall of 2022 and 'regular' alumni classes for those who had. One show was held in November of 2022 within the state of Maryland while the other was held December 18th in Doylestown, Pennsylvania on the campus of Delaware Valley University. These shows were to some degree a litmus test on what might happen if there were alumni-only shows held throughtout a given season - Editor)

There are four divisions offered: Alumni Fences, Alumni Flat, Alumni Ranch Riding and Alumni Horsemanship. The first two have been held at each hunter seat alumni event while the latter two have been held at each western event. Riders can show in up to 15 events during the regular season, with their 10 best scores to count towards earning 28 points in a division to qualify for the post-season. In similar fashion to the IEA a rider can compete in a different part of the country if they desire and have the points count in their declaired 'home zone.' There are only Zones and not Regions for geographical purposes within the AEE and to the best of our knowledge the current IHSA Zones have the same geography as the AEE. Judges need not have a large or small "R" for an AEE event; Simply having judging experience is acceptable. At the November 5th event in Pipersville, Pennsylvania one of the two judges was Bryan Bradley, the long-time IHSA coach known best for coaching the University of Delaware to the 1997 IHSA hunter seat National Championship (and Cazenovia College graduate Bradley has previously competed in many IHSA Western Alumni events; Bradley was third in alumni reining at 2003 IHSA Nationals. On September 30th of this year Bradley judged a unrated local show near the Pennsylvania/Maryland border).

She was traveling for work so she figured why not enter an alumni event where she was going! This worked out well for 2014 University of Buffalo graduate Kimberly Kovacik (pictured) who was first in alumni flat and second in alumni fences at Heaven's Gate on November 5th. This was Kovacik's first time riding in an event with an IHSA connection since she was an undergraduate.

With at least ten English and ten Western Alumni Shows having been held Nationwide through December 3rd this season it is time for Campus Equestrian to start providing some of the results from these events. If we attend an event we will include the Class-By-Class Placings for that event as an extention to this article.

And because we were present on November 5th at Heaven's Gate Farm in Pipersville, Pennsylvania we have the results of the two hunter seat classes held prior to the start of an unrated show there that day. 2014 University of Buffalo graduate Kimberly Kovacik, who had not competed at an IHSA-related event since she was an undergraduate, was first in alumni flat and second to 2023 Columbia University graduate Leah Hale in alumni fences to become the most decorated rider of the day. The same seven riders were entered in each of the two classes, with at least two of them having traveled to the Phlladelphia suburb from another Zone. Up to that date no shows had been held in either Zone 2 or Zone 4, so Kovacik (who was coincidentally traveling for work purposes) came up from Zone 4 while Hale's former Columbia teammate Gigi Spence traveled south from Zone 2. Hale, who was an undergraduate in Zone 2 but declared for Zone 3 this season, would have been reserve high point rider with a first and a fourth if there were such ribbons awarded at this event.

--Steve Maxwell

November 5th Show Incidentals: Cloudy skies, with temperatures in the mid 40's. Entire show held indoors. Judges: Bryan Bradley and Nina Leopald. This show was completed in less than one hour.

Alumni Fences: 1. Leah Hale, Columbia University. 2. Kimberly Kovacik, University of Buffalo. 3. Ava Spielman, Indiana University. 4. Sonia Alfandre, Ithaca College. 5. Stacy Klein, Dartmouth College. 6. Terra Peter, State University of New York at Geneseo.

Alumni Flat: 1. Kimberly Kovacik, University of Buffalo. 2. Stacy Klein, Dartmouth College. 3. Sonia Alfandre, Ithaca College. 4. Leah Hale, Columbia University. 5. Gigi Spence, Columbia University. 6. Ava Spielman, Indiana University.


© 2002 - 2023 Campus Equestrian