From left to right standing are Gabriella Toreja, Grace Garvey and Carson Tazzioli of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Seated on the right is Katherine Doyle, who warmed up some horses at the September 19th and 20th St. Mary of the Woods shows. Doyle is unique in that she attends Loyala University of Illinois which does not have an equestrian team! However Doyle grew up riding at Commonwealth Farm with Fighting Illini head coach Terri Foreman (not pictured) and still rides with Foreman during the summer.


If you saw it written down as the season opener for IHSA Zone 7, Region 1 any other year you might not bat an eyelash. A few shows on September 19 and 20? Usually a region or two starts this early.

But 2020 isn't any other calendar year. This is the year of the covid-19 global pandemic, the first such worldwide pandemic since 1918. All U.S. college sporting events were cancelled from late March through the end of the 2019-20 school year, and very few events were scheduled between September 2020 and the end of December. One of the byproducts of the pandemic is that many colleges and universities opted for indefinite on-line instruction, which meant that students who lived great distances from their schools would not have to head back to campus for the fall and instead take class from in front of a computer or hand-held device from wherever they might please. This would also mean that sports practices would be problematic (i.e. students on a specific college sports team not all in the same area at the same time).

However there are some schools that decided to at least try to have classes on campus with students in dorms as would be the case any other year. There were enough of them in parts of Indiana and Illinois with equestrian teams that four schools decided they would set a precedent and compete in the first official IHSA shows since March 8th. St. Mary of the Woods College (located in St. Mary of the Woods, Indiana, though their equestrian center might have a West Terre Haute, Indiana address) agreed to host, and with better than half the Region 1 schools not entered (Ball State, Butler, Earlham, Eastern Illinois, Indiana, Lake Land and Purdue each competed during the 2019-20 season but were not entered at the first shows for multiple reasons) the decision was made to hold two shows (a morning show and an afternoon show) on Saturday the 19th with a single show on Sunday the 20th.

"Squirt" declares that everyone at the three St. Mary of the Woods shows should follow social distancing guidelines.

In July the IHSA released a list of protocols that must be followed in order to hold an IHSA show. The easiest one to remember is that face coverings/masks must be worn in any setting where there is a possibility of being within six feet of others unless mounted.

From all accounts that Campus Equestrian has heard the protocols were followed. Riders wore masks/face coverings throughout the show except when mounted. Riders put their masks back on upon exiting the ring. Anyone who was not riding was masked throughout the day when within six feet of others. Essentially the three competitions showed that 'it can be done' even in these unusual times.

With traditional region champion Purdue University not competing it was assured that another school would have the early lead in the Zone 7, Region 1 hunter seat team standings. Purdue captured every Region 1 hunter seat region title from 2011 through 2020 save for 2015, when the University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign won. The Illinois fighting Illini were one of the four teams to compete September 19/20, but it was the host school that emerged with the lead. In fact St. Mary of the Woods earned high point team honors in each of the three shows. The Pomeroys last captured a hunter seat region title in 2010 but quickly established themselves as the team to beat (heck, until another region holds some hunter seat shows the Pomeroys have the best record in the country).

Saturday morning show Judge Sarah Burton (on right) tries to break the tie for high point rider by running some questions past Drew Arnold (on left) and his St. Mary of the Woods teammate Taylor Valencia (not pictured). Arnold had the better answers and would earn high point rider honors again at the afternoon show.

Part of St. Mary of the Woods success over three shows was strength in numbers. The Pomeroys (also known to many as 'The Woodsies') had the most riders and the most rides, and the efforts of their three competing open riders helped immensely. Drew Arnold, who finished on top of the 2019-20 Region 1 hunter seat open rider standings, was high point rider at each of the first two shows. However Arnold does not lead the Region 1 open rider standings at the moment! His Pomeroy teammate Kathryn Kraft does. A senior from Zionsville, Indiana, Kraft was high point rider on Sunday with two firsts to move ahead of Arnold by two points. Arnold finished the weekend two points ahead of another St. Mary of the Woods open rider, Taylor Valencia. Through the morning show on Saturday Valencia and Arnold were tied for the lead in the Region 1 open rider standings, though a 'question-off' in place of a ride-off made Arnold the high point rider (both had a first and a third which no one else had equaled or bettered). No other open rider currently has even half as many points as Valencia (who has 29).

Though St. Mary of the Woods went undefeated for the weekend the University of Illinois kept within single digits at each show. The Pomeroys prevailed 30-23 at the first show and again 36-29 in the afternoon. The Fighting Illini came the closest on Sunday, falling by only a 39-36 score. Sofia Baptist of Illinois was reserve high point rider on the 20th. Indiana University - Purdue University at Indianapolis was third at both shows Saturday, though their point totals dropped at each event. IUPUI scored 14 in the AM, 11 in the PM and eight points on Sunday to finish the weekend third overall. Taylor University was the most consistant of the four teams entered. The Trojans scored 7, 8 and 10 points, respectively, averting fourth place at the Sunday show.

Though Campus Equestrian has received fall Zone 7, Region 1 show schedules from two sources (and they were not identical) a third source advised us that only the three completed hunter seat shows and a double western show (also to be hosted by St. Mary of the Woods) on Saturday, October 3rd are the only fall shows the region considers set in stone. Therefore only those shows will appear on our Zone 7, Region 1 show schedule for the moment. However quite a few Region 1 shows may be held in the month of February if the situation worldwide will allow.

We are not sure if the woman in the middle is Taylor University head coach Jenny Schamber but we are sure that the Trojans had at least ten riders entered at the September 20th show. Taylor scored ten points to finish third on Sunday morning.

Western on deck, and in more than one place!: While Zone 7, Region 1 will hold their first western shows of the year at St. Mary of the Woods this coming Saturday there will be another region kicking off their season two states further south. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville will host Western shows on both Saturday, October 3rd and Sunday, October 4th (the Saturday show starts in the afternoon to allow for teams to travel earlier in the day). These will be the first Zone 5, Region 1 shows of the 2020-21 season. Remarkably eight teams in this region - Murray State, Tennessee Tech, Western Kentucky, the University of the South, the University of Memphis, Roane State Community College, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and defending region champion Middle Tennessee State - are already registered as active teams on the IHSA's official website, This means these schools will most likely participate in an IHSA show sometime soon, be it Western or English.

Though we are not sure of any other regions hosting fall IHSA shows there are still a few that have yet to confirm with us that they will Not show this fall. As of September 25th Zones 1, 3, 6 and 8 have indicated to this writer that schools in their areas will not be showing until after the first of the year at the earliest. Most of Zones 2 and 4 have also confirmed that they will wait until after January 1st to compete. This will probably hold true, though several major college football conferences did a one-eighty over the past two weeks and scheduled fall games after having made the same 'wait until January' statements late in the summer. Those who are taking a wait-and-see approach are doing the right thing, for if the few shows that are scheduled run without any hitches - and provided covid-19 outbreaks don't surface with any connection to the events up to 14 days later - then the idea that 'it can be done' will make scheduling shows after January 1st less worrysome. If schools holding in-person, on campus classes at the moment avert covid-19 outbreaks from any source throughout the fall then hopefully more schools will hold in-person classes after January 1st and riders who might be a great distance from their campuses today might be ready to follow the IHSA covid-19 protocols in greater numbers four months from now, knock wood.

Alexis Cobb of the St. Mary of the Woods team sent us all the photos seen within this article. It is not clear to us if Cobb is in this photo or if she took the picture, but the photo is supposed to be the St. Mary of the Woods team photo taken on the 20th. Some of the individuals in the photo might not have been entered that day due to class limits. In any event the photo shows that there were no shortage of Pomeroys (or 'Woodsies') present to run the show and/or compete in it.

(Special Thanks to Alexis Cobb for forwarding photos, results and other information on the three shows. Cobb, who competes for St. Mary of the Woods College, may have taken some of the photos herself. All photos on this page are courtesy of Cobb, who sent many more photos which will likely be used on the Zone 7, Region 1 page in the near future.)

--Steve Maxwell


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