Robert "Bob" Milk (in cowboy hat, holding clipboard) judges the alumni western class at the Western Alumni Tournament of Champions event which took
place within the Let's Ride Farm indoor on August 2nd.
READER, NADOBNY, PROSCH-JENSEN AND LEVINE TAKE HOME BLUE RIBBONS AT SEVENTH-ANNUAL WESTERN ALUMNI EVENT
Coleman, MI - For the first time since March 8th a horse show took place
with an honest IHSA connection. Every summer since 2014 the Western Alumni
Tournament of Champions has taken place and even in the covid-19-ridden world
of 2020 the show went on. Originally to have been held in Oxford, Ohio during
the month of May, the seventh annual western meet took place on a rainy day at
Let's Ride Farm in Coleman, Michigan on August 2nd. Ten riders who were
undergraduates at seven different schools participated which due to covid-19
travel-related restrictions made for the smallest field ever at an Alumni
Of these ten riders five were common to both the advanced horsemanship and
advanced reining divisions. Meanwhile the alumni horsemanship and alumni
reining divisions nearly had the other five riders entered in each. 2003
Cazenovia College graduate Connie Chave rode only in the alumni horsemanship
class, reducing the field to four riders in the alumni reining.
One rider who did not compete but is no stranger to previous Alumni TOC's
as well as past IHSA Nationals was on hand with two of her horses. Former
Saginaw Valley State University graduate Caitlin "Katy" Arthur and her
Mother were present, and this writer wants to praise their horses (one of
which had already won some significant ribbons at regular shows even though
Katy Arthur had only purchased this horse less than three months earlier) as
well as three others that were brought in along with a few that belong to
Let's Ride Farm. It was a joy to see each horse do spins exactly like what
is seen at IHSA Nationals. Though this writer missed what were most likely
very good horses at the 2018 and 2019 Western Alumni events in Ohio it
appeared to me that this was the best collection of western horseflesh I
have seen at an alumni tournament to date.
|2012 Morrisville State College graduate Andrea LaManque is seen here riding in the advanced horsemanship class. LaManque is the only
rider who can claim to have competed in the first Western Alumni Tournament of Champions event in 2014 and the most recent in 2020.
The show got underway at 9:21AM with Advanced Western Horsemanship.
After everyone had walked, jogged and loped judge Robert Milk lined
the five entries up. 2012 Morrisville State College graduate Andrea
LaManque would be the first of the five to try the pattern. LaManque's
effort nearly won the class. The rider who went fourth had not previously
competed head-to-head versus LaManque yet both had competed at all the
same 2019-20 IHSA regular season shows. Baylee Reader, who was one of
two riders entered who had to take on-line classes to close out her
senior year, finished second in the Zone 2, Region 3 western open rider
standings in 2019-20. Therefore Reader, from the State University of New
York at Cobleskill, was making her alumni debut and later competed in the
Futures divisions, which are reserved for those who graduated in the
most recent school year. Going fourth in advanced western, Reader was
deemed best in the division by judge Milk with LaManque second.
The other five riders entered in the show then mounted up for the
Alumni Horsemanship Division. Sponsored by this writer, the class
included 2018 Grand Valley State University graduate Kelsey
Prosch-Jensen. At 2018 IHSA Nationals Prosch-Jensen was third in
individual advanced western horsemanship and she was one place better on
August 2nd. Coming out on top in the alumni western was Lee Levine.
Levine made State University of New York at Cobleskill riders 2-for-2 as
the 2010 graduate prevailed. During the regular season Levine finished
one point ahead of LaManque 29-28 for second place in the Alumni Western
Division within Zone 2, Region 3. It should be noted that Levine and
LaManque have become good friends over the years having shown head-to-head
in alumni classes since LaManque graduated from Morrisville eight years
Just as the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) sponsors the
individual reining division at IHSA Nationals the organization sponsored
two of the reining classes at today's
event. The runner-up in this division is one of those rare cases of
a rider who rides alumni from one school while graduating from another.
Marina Nadobny, who rode for Saginaw Valley State University in
2016-17, transferred to another school without an IHSA program. This
season Nadobny was very successful as an alumni rider during the
regular season, as she was second overall in the presentation of the
High Score Award (more on that later). Nadobny, who was third earlier
in advanced horsemanship, was reserve champion behind Reader, who
remained undefeated for the day with one two-phased class remaining.
|From left to right are Kaitlyn Belcher, Lee Levine, Kelsey Prosch-Jensen, Kaycee Hatch and Connie Chave. Save for Chave each of these riders showed in
the alumni horsemanship and alumni reining divisions on August 2nd. Levine won the former and Prosch-Jensen the latter. Chave competed only in the horsemanship
class but could be the only rider to compete in the western show and the ATOC hunter seat event a week later.
The NRHA-sponsored Alumni Reining was the fourth class of the day
and the last that was not part of a 'Cup' competition. Kaycee Hatch,
a 2018 graduate of the University of Wisconsin at River Falls, was
the only rider of the day to claim "Reunion" status. Each year there
are alumni riders who compete in this event who also competed in IHSA
Alumni Classes during the previous school year. At the same time
riders who did not ride during the most recent season are allowed to
compete as Reunion riders. When enough Reunion riders enter a show
there is usually a separate class or two for these riders but with
covid-19 in the air Hatch was the only rider entered that could not
claim to have competed at a 2019-20 IHSA show. Hatch, who had
finished fifth in the second class of the day moved up to second here
while Prosch-Jensen moved up from second to first. One of three GVSU
grads competing at today's show, Prosch-Jensen was the first rider of
the day not from the state of New York to win a class.
At this point this writer needs to turn the clock back to August
1st. On that evening (less than 14 hours before the show started)
there was an informal gathering of the riders for the presentation of
the annual High Score Award. The award is presented to the rider who
is considered to be the top Western Alumni Rider for the most recent
IHSA Regular Season based on a formula (also the complete alumni totals
for a region must reach Alumni Tournament show organizers Lena Andrews
and Jamie Windle, for if a region does not send their totals then
riders from that region are not considered for this award). Finishing
sixth was LaManque while Laura Zemaitis of Grand Valley State was
fifth. Levine was fourth while Tammy Cranouski, a 2004 Westfield State
University graduate who was not in Michigan for the show, was third.
Nadobny, who had a great year showing in her old region, was the
reserve champion while Tara Mathews was the blue ribbon winner.
Former University of Connecticut rider Mathews was not present but will hopefully be at the hunter seat show
to be held in East Greenville, Pennsylvania on August 9th. At 2019
IHSA Nationals Mathews made history when she became the first rider
ever to win both a hunter seat alumni class (Both flat and fences that
weekend) and a western alumni class (alumni horsemanship) at not only
the same Nationals event but at any nationals in the organization's
history. Up to that moment no rider who won a Western alumni class at
an IHSA Nationals event could say they ever won an English alumni class
at the current Nationals or a previous one. In
2019-20 Mathews finished 14 points ahead of Levine in Zone 2, Region 3
Western (though that region held only alumni horsemanship classes but
no alumni reining). Mathews will be high up in the hunter seat high
score standings, as her efforts in Zone 2, Region 2 hunter seat alumni
during the past season gave her the lead in both the flat and fences
in that region.
Sadly the rider who was the reserve champion in the Western High
Score award for 2019 is no longer with us. The Western Alumni Cup
competition was re-named the Amanda Belcher Memorial Western Alumni Cup in
2020. The world lost Belcher in a tragic accident (not horse-related)
either late last year or early in 2020. A 2015 graduate of Murray
State University, Belcher was reserve champion in Alumni Reining at
2019 IHSA Nationals and competed at the 2019 Western Alumni Tournament
weeks later. Belcher's parents and sister (and two of her dogs) were
present on August 2nd for the presentation of the award going to the
top rider of the event (Belcher was sixth overall in this same division
|The parents of the late Amanda Belcher are seen here with former Saginaw Valley State rider Marina Nadobny (center).
The Belchers, who lost their daughter since last year's western alumni event, sponsored the Alumni Cup classes on August 2nd.
Nadobny, making her first appearance at an ATOC event, won the multi-phased Cup division.
LaManque, Zemaitis and Nadobny made up the field, with Nadobny
earning the Cup championship award in her first-ever appearance at a
Alumni Tournament event. Zemaitis, currently the co-coach of the
GVSU Western team, was second one year after winning the future
alumni cup in Oxford the previous June 2nd.
There were only two riders entered in the Future Alumni Cup
classes, which surprisingly is the same number of entries in this
division as a year ago. Katelyn Belcher, a 2020 Grand Valley State
University graduate who is not related to Amanda Belcher, was the
reserve champion while Reader went undefeated for the day by
following Zemaitis into the record books as a Future Alumni Cup
blue ribbon winner. If Reader shows alumni in Zone 2, Region 3
next year along with LaManque, Levine and Mathews it will be one of
the strongest groups of alumni horsemanship riders any region has
Don't leave anyone out!: Also entered in both advanced
horsemanship and advanced reining was 2019 Ohio State University
graduate Taylor Day. It was Day's first appearance at an alumni
tournament event, in which she earned a fourth in horsemanship and
a fifth in reining. Day is another rider to attend two schools as
an undergraduate. While Nadobny only rode IHSA for one school
Day was a member of the 2015-16 Murray State team and a member of
the 2016-17 Ohio State team. Cazenovia graduate Chave was fourth
in alumni horsemanship. Save for someone who might have had a
jumbo jet and their own landing strip, Chave stands to be the first
person to ride in both the Western Alumni Tournament event and the
Hunter Seat Alumni Tournament event in two seasons. Last year both
events were held on June 2nd, with Western at Miami University of
Ohio and English at Briarwood Farm at Black River Farm in Ringoes,
New Jersey (making it all but impossible to show at both). With
the two shows spaced a week apart in 2020 Chave is the only rider
to show on August 2nd who is also registered to compete a week
later. The field at
Rosewood Equestrian Center in East Greenville, Pennsylvania on
August 9th will be much larger than the western event, with nearly
60 different riders signed up to compete including Chave.
|She came very close to earning an automatic trip to 2020 IHSA Nationals in the individual AQHA
high point rider competition. 2020 State University of New York at Cobleskill graduate Baylee Reader is seen here
outside the Let's Ride indoor shortly after the show ended and the rain stopped. Reader was the most decorated
rider on August 2nd, winning three of the six classes held that day and going undefeated in her three appearances.
One more paragraph: The Western Alumni Tournament was completed
in only two hours and 15 minutes, with the placings for the future
alumni cup announced at 11:36AM. Following the show photos were
taken of the various combinations of class winners, as this did not
happen immediately after each class which is normally the case.
By 12:30PM most had left Let's Ride Farm (where the rain stopped
only minutes after the show was completed). Though it was a short
show there was great enthusiasm among the competitors, their families,
the horse providers, the media, the staff and ownership of Let's Ride
Farm and even the Dogs ("Newton" the English Bulldog tried his best
to knock down a few of the spectators when he wanted attention.
Newton and two other dogs belonging to farm owner Joal Brisbois were
almost as much entertainment as the show itself). If you were there
it felt great to see an actual horse show going on in this very
different world we currently live in halfway through 2020. Hopefully
the English event on August 9th will be as enjoyable (the first time
to date that the western ATOC preceeded the hunter seat ATOC in a
The August 2nd Class-By-Class Results, listed in the order in
which they were held. The Judge was Robert Milk. Weather: Rain,
with a high temperature in the low '70's. Entire show held indoors.
Start Time: 9:21AM. Finish: 11:36AM. This show was Western Only:
Advanced Horsemanship: 1. Baylee Reader, State University of New
York at Cobleskill. 2. Andrea LaManque, Morrisville State College.
3. Marina Nadobny, Saginaw Valley State University. 4. Taylor Day,
Ohio State University. 5. Laura Zemaitis, Grand Valley State
Alumni Horsemanship: 1. Lee Levine, State University of New York
at Cobleskill. 2. Kelsey Prosch-Jensen, Grand Valley State
University. 3. Katelyn Belcher, Grand Valley State University.
4. Connie Chave, Cazenovia College. 5. Kaycee Hatch, University of
Wisconsin at River Falls.
Advanced Reining: 1. Baylee Reader, State University of New
York at Cobleskill. 2. Marina Nadobny, Saginaw Valley State
University. 3. Laura Zemaitis, Grand Valley State University.
4. Andrea LaManque, Morrisville State College. 5. Taylor Day, Ohio
Alumni Reining: 1. Kelsey Prosch-Jensen, Grand Valley State
University. 2. Kaycee Hatch, University of Wisconsin at River
Falls. 3. Katelyn Belcher, Grand Valley State University. 4. Lee
Levine, State University of New York at Cobleskill.
Future Alumni Cup: 1. Baylee Reader, State University of New
York at Cobleskill. 2. Katelyn Belcher, Grand Valley State
Alumni Cup: 1. Marina Nadobny, Saginaw Valley State
University. 2. Laura Zemaitis, Grand Valley State University.
3. Andrea LaManque, Morrisville State University.