To draw your horse at 2024 IHSA Zone 1 Zones you had to enter "Barbieland" where Barbie's house, Barbie's car, Barbie's plane, her high heel, her birkenstock and, heck, more than one Barbie was even found (photo courtesy of Megan Martin).


Prior to Zone 1 Zones on April 6th this writer heard that the show would be at the Mount Holyoke College equestrian center as usual but not hosted by Zone 1, Region 3 which is Mount Holyoke's region. Instead Zone 1, Region 4 would be the offical host, and that things would be done slightly differently. All of the horses would be brought in from other barns, and the live horse draw would involve a "Barbie" themed room. The Barbie film was almost nine months old but was still fresh in the minds of many, and Endicott College head coach (and former Skidmore College open rider) Megan Martin can partially take credit for the idea that most definitely livened up the proceedings.

"My assistant coach, Macayla, and I came up with the Barbie theme idea," says Martin. "At the second show of the season (Boston University head coach) Phyllis Cervelli told us that we would be able to pick a theme and that one team would have to be in charge of that theme and the draw room. Mac and I immediately volunteered and we had the Barbie theme in just a few minutes, haha! We both loved the movie last year and it seemed like a fun and simple theme to do because it was so popular recently."

With the concept figured out during the fall most of the work that went into building the room and perparing it for a horse draw was taken care of in early 2024. The last thing to prepare was likely the Barbie cookies. Shaped like Barbie's head, each cookie had a draw number on the flip side.

(From left to right:) Isabella Karr of the University of Vermont, Emma Eaton-Ayres of the University of Rhode Island, Madeline Ahern of Stonehill College, Emmalyn Mirarchi of Mount Holyoke College and Abigail Boyer of the University of Connecticut pose in front of the Barbie room prior to being lined up from tallest to shortest These five riders competed in the Cacchione Cup Class. Eaton-Ayres, who placed third in the Cacchione class at Zones and repeated that placing at IHSA Nationals, wears one of the "My name is...Barbie" badges that were seen early and often around the indoor.

"The geometrical doors and shapes on the walls, as well as the board with moving vehicles to determine current placings in the day, were designed and painted entirely by the Endicott team members. It was a collaborative effort between my captains, and Mak and I as to how the room would flow. I can’t recall who came up with the idea for cookies, but we put it out to the region to see if anybody would be able to help us with it, and two of the girls from the (Tufts) team volunteered, and then...baked and frosted and packaged all of those cookies themselves. The cowboy hat, Jump fillers that we raffle off, that sat in the photo area all day, were designed and built by one team student of mine and her brother."

Finally April 6th came and the room was ready. "Meeting Stickers" that said "Hello. My name is..." were all filled in with the name "Barbie" and placed in all the prize packs for riders to place on their jackets if they desired. Mount Holyoke head coach C.J. Law heard about the Barbie-themed Draw Room far enough ahead of time to have someone associated with the school named Kira Schaefer create a special cover for the Zones show program. Schaefer came up with a take-off on a Barbie movie poster one might find outside a movie theater which showed the film upon it's release. The heading read "Zone 1, Region 4 Presents...Zone 1 Finals (those last three in large pink and white letters). Then it read "Only in Theaters April 6, 2024". Instead of starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gossling the program said the stars were Sacred Heart University, Stonehill College, Mount Holyoke College, University of Vermont and University of Rhode Island (these were the five schools who won their respective regions and thus had a full team entered in the Zone 1 Zones team competition). Most Zones and Semifinals events have a "winner's circle" area where teams, riders and anyone at the facility can go and take pictures with a banner stating the name of the event. This area also received the Barbie influence, with signs sitting nearby that said things like "This Barbie is going to Nationals!" not to mention the pink cowboy hats that Martin referenced earlier.

After finishing second to Eaton-Ayres at Zones in individual open flat Amherst College sophomore Willow Vince stepped into the Barbie Room for this photo near Barbie's car and her Airplane. A coach in Zone 3 believes Barbie's plane might cost $100.00 but apparently all the toys seen here set the buyers back only $15.00.

And then of course there was the Barbie room itself. Unless one of the Barbie dolls was wearing something that wasn't pink the color pink was everywhere. It was not unlike a museum exhibit or a fun house, where you went in one side and came out the other. In talking about the Barbie room with some of the coaches at Zone 1 Zones (and when explaining the Barbie room to Zone 3 Zones coaches the next day) a fair number thought it must have been expensive to aquire all of the Barbies, her accessories and her vehicles unless someone knew a Barbie fanatic who already owned the items. But according to Martin it was easy to be thrifty when piecing the room together.

"The Barbie stuff came from a variety of sources, but the total cost for all of it was $15! Some of it was being given away in a neighborhood that one of my students lives in, at the end of a driveway. And a lot of it was purchased as a bulk lot by my wife on Facebook marketplace. I have an almost five-year-old daughter so we knew we could reuse most of it when the room was finished. I think I spent another five dollars at Goodwill for one of the items." When told via e-mail that a Zone 3 coach claimed Barbie's airplane retails for about $100.00 Martin stated she had no idea the plane was expensive.

Former Morrisville State College rider Sarah Lent was on hand to run the horse draw and Lent took the opportunity to wear a Barbie Wig throughout the day. Along with her shiny outfit Lent was the closest thing to a real-life Barbie on the premises. It is difficult to convey the happy vibe the Barbie motif gave to the show. One must remember that only the top two in all but the Cacchione Cup Class advance to IHSA Nationals (the top three Cacchione riders continue on) and only the top two teams in the team competition survive. You would think there would be only so much joy to go around with almost 80 percent of the Zones qualifiers seeing their seasons come to a halt. But there was so much camaraderie between teammates, family and friends that for once the terms "focused," "serious" and "party" somehow all fit together. It was a field day for everyone who cobbled the whole Barbie thing together.

--Steve Maxwell

Worcester State University head coach Courtney Germain (on left) and Ciara Goellner of the Lancers are all smiles after Goellner was second at Zones in individual intermediate on the flat. The two were all but too happy to pose next to the entrance of the Barbie room at that moment. Perhaps other Zones and Semifinals in the future will have themed rooms for horse draw on a par with "Barbieland."


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