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2002 U.S. World Cup Trials Held at William Woods University

by Kenny Mills
Posted March 8, 2002
Some 15 years ago, an informal exchange of saddle seat riders for international competition began between the United States and South Africa. In 1992, the competition was renamed the Saddle Seat Equitation World Cup and an exchange every two years between the two countries was created. Formal guidelines for U.S. team selection would not exist until 1996, nor were formal rules governing the International competition in place until that time. In that year, due largely to efforts by South African Pietie Joubert and American Anne Judd, the competition became truly international and took steps to formalize.

Rules governing the competition were created and an international world cup committee with delegates from each participating country was established. Five nations competed for the coveted World Cup trophy, designed with gold and diamond accents. The trophy, which was donated by South Africans Kosie and Dina Botha, is to remain in the possession of the winning country during the two-year interim between competitions. The United States, after a tremendous amount of effort in organizing and hosting the first competition of its kind at Equitana in Louisville, Ky., was rewarded when Team USA emerged victorious.

In 1998, the U.S. followed a selection process similar to the one used in 1996 to field a team, which then traveled to Paarl, South Africa for the next competition. Again, after heavy competition from four other nations, the United States captured the World Cup. It was at this competition that a meeting of the International World Cup Committee was held. As a result of that meeting, an international sporting body, to first recognize saddle seat equitation was created.

The International Saddle Seat Equitation Association (ISSEA) has two primary objectives - to administrate the International Saddle Seat Equitation World Cup competition and to promote the saddle seat discipline internationally. Denise de Wet currently serves as the president of ISSEA. Comprised of members from all nations participating in the World Cup, this organization hopes to encourage visibility for saddle seat equitation by fostering continued international exchanges of riders for competition.

The success of this event has brought about many changes in the horse industry in the United States as well as in the other member countries of South Africa, Namibia, Canada, and Great Britain. The goals of the creators of this competition were to spread the art of saddle seat equitation throughout the world and to elevate the sport to international acceptance and recognition. It was the intent of the founders to help raise the credibility of these fine athletes and their beautiful horses to that of top international athletes.

William Woods University, Fulton, Mo., was the setting for the 2002 U.S. Saddle Seat World Cup Trials. The event was held Feb. 8-10, with 20 competitors in the three-gaited division and 10 in the five-gaited division. Trials for both teams were combined this year.

Competing in the three-gaited division was Kristen Ahern, Ashley Alden, Kristina Baum, Tate Bennett, Brittney Berget, Michelle Chauvin, Staci DeRegnaucourt, Devon Garone, Brooke Jacobs, Alison Montoya, Reese Richey, Tasha Rose Sandler, Brooksley Sheehe, Cristina Sloan, Sarah Thordsen, Matthew Williams, Dakota Willimon, Lacey Wright, Melinda Young, and Renee Zubrod. Competitors for the five-gaited team were Ashley Birdsong, Jonelle Chovanec, Jessica Curl, Lucinda Hartley, Megan Loescher, Megan McClure, Rachael North, Abigail Reising, Kelcy Smith, and Sarah Van Galder.

The competition began at 8:00 am, Saturday Feb. 9, and results were posted around 5:00 pm that day. Riders were scored by a panel of six judges; Nelson Greene, Nicholasville, Ky.; Cecile Hetzel-Dunn, Weirsdale, Fla.; Lisa Richardson, Bedford, N.H.; Jimmy Robertson, Simpsonville, Ky.; Sandy Sessink, South Lyon, Mich.; and Ann Slomkowski, Northville, Mich.

Other officials were announcer, John Owens; steward, Anne Judd; scorekeepers, Georgine Ryter, Christy O'Donnell, Sheri Brandl; and show manager, Nancy Becker. Representing the hosting facility was Laura Ward, chair of the equestrian science division and Gayle Lampe, director and professor of saddle seat equitation.

The riders were judged 40% on railwork, 40% on patterns, and 20% on personal interview. Judges used the USA Equestrian saddle seat equitation standards as their guidelines when evaluating each rider.

Rail work was evaluated using a numerical system based on a perfect score total of 100 from each judge. The combined total of six scores for each rider constituted that riders total for that specific ride.

Each pattern was divided into segments which carried a possible score value that was determined by the panel of judges prior to the competition. Each pattern had a total possible score of 100 from each judge.

The interview portion of the competition was conducted by a panel of three interviewers. The duration of each interview was 10 minutes. With questions on such topics as current world and national events, history, geography, etc., riders were evaluated primarily for their ability to conduct themselves in a positive, articulate, and professional manner.

Once scores were tabulated and the results were posted, five finalists and one alternate for each team were selected. Representing the three-gaited team are Kristen Ahern (N.Y.), Tate Bennett (Ky.), Devon Garone (N.H.), Brooke Jacobs (Ky.), Matthew Williams (Ky.) and alternate Melinda Young (Kan.). Representing the five-gaited team will be Ashley Birdsong (Mo.), Jonelle Chovanec (Ill.), Lucinda Hartley (Ky.), Abigail Reising (Ill.), Kelcy Smith (La.), and alternate Rachael North (Ky.). Both teams will now make the journey to Robertson, South Africa to compete in the Saddle Seat World Cup to be held Oct. 2 - 5, 2002.

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