They began with nearly 11,000 riders in barns across America; the oldest off to college next year, the youngest still in garters with ribbon bows holding back their braids.
Over seven months – through 628 local shows, regionals, and zones – the thousands were whittled to the nation’s best young hunt seat riders, from beginner to Open, in classes over fences and on the flat. They came together for three days in April, at the Interscholastic Equestrian Association finals in Syracuse, where the best became one. A single blue ribbon, one champion from the many.
And so there were smiles. Countless, but among the brightest from Tomiko McGovern of New Paltz. In her final year as an IEA rider, Tomiko had the competition that is every rider’s dream: She took home three blues for Lucky C Stables and the crown of Varsity Open Champion and 2018 Leading Hunt Seat Rider.
There were tears, too. That there was no callback, that nerves overtook countless hours of practice, that neither spurs nor force of will would make that #!*% horse canter cleanly when it mattered most. Champions all, for their dedication to the sport, their work ethic, and for being one of the final eight to stand center ring at the venerable fairgrounds Coliseum with a ribbon in hand. The color, in the final reckoning, unimportant.
THE ARTFUL HORSE
THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON
Behind the scenes at the IEA hunt seat nationals in Syracuse, we found bright lights, blue ribbons, and quiet moments in between.