In 2015, college officials shocked alumni and students alike when they announced the school, including its esteemed equestrian program, would close. Alumnae saved their beloved school, and the college’s tradition of riding excellence was saved with it.
On Saturday, May 5, 2018, Makayla Benjamin, a senior, became the riding program’s first winner of the Cacchione Cup at the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
The USEF/Cacchione Cup is awarded to the National Individual Hunter Seat High Point Rider.
Benjamin, of Leesburg, Virginia, is one of 24 riders from across the nation who qualified to compete for the Cacchione Cup, with three riders coming from each of the eight regions across the nation.
The last Vixen to compete at nationals in the USEF/Cacchione Cup was Olivia Smith in 2014. Smith placed ninth overall. Benjamin joins Smith and Jodie Weber as Sweet Briar riders to have competed for the USEF/Cacchione Cup since 2006. Weber finished fourth in 2006, while Smith finished 33rd in 2013 and ninth in 2014.
Past Cacchione Cup winners are:
2017: Katherine Steiner – Centenary University
2016: Chase Boggio, Tufts University
2015: Elizabeth Hay, College of Charleston-South Carolina
2014: Alexandra Carleton, University of Vermont
2013: Cori Reich, Centenary College
2012: Kels Bonham, Savannah College of Art and Design
2011: Marissa Cohen, Centenary College
2010: Lindsay Sceats, Mount Holyoke College
2009: Lindsay Clark, Centenary College
2008: James Fairclough II, Drew University
2007: Whitney Roper, University of Virginia
2005: Ashley Woodhouse, Skidmore College
2004: Tara Brothers, University of South Carolina
2003: John Pigott, University of Vermont
2002: Laena Romond, Mount Holyoke College
2001: Amanda Forte, Brown University
2000: Hally Philips, Tufts University
1999: Lindsay Phibbs, Skidmore College
1998: Jennie Chesis, Cazenovia College
1997: Kelly Anne Taylor, Centenary College
1996: Kara Treiber, University of Findlay
1995: Kim Peters, Lake Erie College
1994: Daniel Geitner Sainy, Andrews Presbyterian College
1993: Parris Cozart, Hollins College
1992: Christine Kilpatrick, University of Virginia
1991: Kelly Mullen, SUNY Stony Brook
1990: Claudia Barth, Mount Holyoke College
1989: Charlotte Sprague, Hollins College
1988: Kelly Mullen, SUNY Stony Brook
1987: Heidi Bossow, Hollins College
1986: Peter Wylde, Tufts University
1985: Heidi Bossow, Hollins College
1984: Beezie Patton, Southern Seminary College
1983: CeCe Williamson, University of Virginia
1982: CeCe Williamson, University of Virginia
1981: CeCe Williamson, University of Virginia
1980: Ann Sipperly, SUNY Stony Brook
1979: Mary Buckley, Colby Sawyer College
1978: Luanne Richards, Penn State University
1977: Pam Carson, Adelphi University
1976: Suzie Horrigan, Colby Sawyer College
1975: Jean Oberg, SUNY Stony Brook
1974: Mary Webster, Bennett College
1973: Mark Weissbecker, University of Massachusetts
1972: Duncan Peters, University of Connecticut
The Virginia Tech Hunter Team is making Virginia proud in its first trip to the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association Nationals, held this year at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Eleven Hokies are in Harrisburg representing Virginia Tech. Four are riding individually and eight are riding as part of the team competition. One rider is competing in both the individual and team categories.
Virginia Tech had several riders already seeing success on the first day of competition.
Carolyn Rosazza was named Reserve Champion as a team rider in Novice Equitation on the Flat & also receives an honorable mention as an individual in Advanced W/T/C. Rachel Burton placed ninth as an individual in Advanced W/T/C.
Tanner Paige Price placed sixth as an individual in Intermediate Equitation Over Fences. Meanwhile, Nichole Jones received an honorable mention as a team rider in Novice Equitation Over Fences. Claire Elise Arnold received an honorable mention as a team rider in Intermediate Equitation on the Flat.
IHSA Nationals features 450 men and women from across the U.S. and Canada competing in hunter seat equitation and Western horsemanship in a range of levels from Walk-Trot through Open. The riders have competed throughout the season to qualify and will vie for team, individual, alumni championships and the coveted USEF/Cacchione Cup and the AQHA Western High Point Rider national final.
Randolph College in Lynchburg also sent three riders to Nationals. Makayla Benjamin, of Sweet Briar College, is representing Zone 4 in the Cacchione Cup Finals. After the over-fences portion of the competition on Friday morning she was in third place.
Hollins University is hiring a Director of Equestrian Program and Head Riding Coach after the retirement of longtime director Nancy Peterson.
Peterson, who turns 79 this month, told the Chronicle of the Horse in April, “I just thought it was time. I have not been coerced or pushed or pressured to do this. It is my decision. I’m really happy with it. I just feel like it is time for new leadership and somebody else to come in and take over the program—[someone] who’s younger maybe and more energetic, more stamina than I’ve got. The only expression I can use is, ‘It’s time.”
Peterson arrived at Hollins in 1972. Since then Hollins riders have earned 19 Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association individual national championships, four Fitch Trophy/Cacchione Cup Individual National High Point Rider titles, 21 Old Dominion Athletic Conference titles and two IHSA national team championships.
Two great Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) equestrian team coaches will be recognized for their service and contributions to college riding and the horse industry on Saturday during the 44th IHSA National Championships, May 5-8, at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington: the late James T. ‘JT’ Tallon (Southern Seminary, Randolph Colleges) and Lori Cramer (Miami University of Ohio).
JT Tallon is remembered as a pioneer in the development of college riding in Virginia, spending two decades coaching at Randolph-Macon Women’s College before retiring in 2011, and after nearly a decade coaching Southern Seminary (for Women) became the winningest hunt seat coach in its IHSA history. IHSA executive director Bob Cacchione has pledged a Zone 4 scholarship in the name of the former equestrian director, who will be remembered for coaching perhaps the most successful IHSA team of all time – Southern Seminary for Women in Buena Vista, VA, first as assistant to Russ Walther and later as head coach, taking ‘Sem’ to eight IHSA National Champion team titles in the 1980s, a streak that remains unmatched to this day. Tallon was a true fixture of the Virginia and college horse industries as a coach, trainer, course designer and judge. “Hunter courses are like Muzak in an elevator,” the posthumous recipient of the 2016 IHSA Pioneer Award once said. “You know it’s there but it should never call attention to itself.”
Cramer will become the 23rd recipient of the IHSA Lifetime Achievement Award, presented since 1993 to recognize the longstanding commitment of its coaches. Cramer is an IHSA alum of the University of Findlay who went on to coach Findlay to the IHSA Collegiate Cup team national title in 2001. Originally from New Jersey, she graduated from University of Findlay with an undergraduate degree in Business and Equine Studies and Master’s in Business Administration and later became director of English Equestrian Studies there, coaching the University of Findlay team during her four years there to the national title and two reserve national titles, as well as never finishing out of the Top Five. She coached the Ohio State IHSA hunt seat team to first in their Region and a rally at Zones; and served (for the first six years of her tenure) as head coach for the Miami Equestrian Team before currently serving as adviser to its coaches in addition to heading renovations and building projects at the stables. She is an IHSA Zone 6 Chair, sits on the USHJA Board of Directors and in December was recognized with the USHJA Presidents Distinguished Service Award.
Sweet Briar College may be closing in August, but it’s riding tradition will stay in central Virginia. Sweet Briar equestrian director Merrilee “Mimi” Wroten will join Lynchburg College as director of riding as the college works to expand its equestrian program. Wroten has been head of the acclaimed program at Sweet Briar since 2011 and before that served as associate director since 1999. She will remain at Sweet Briar until the school closes in August.
“It became apparent that a unique opportunity existed to enhance collegiate riding at a local college, provide continuity of instruction for Sweet Briar students and preserve many of the principles of excellence that the Sweet Briar riding tradition was founded upon,” Wroten said in a Lynchburg College news release on the changes.
Mimi is a USEF “R” judge and holds the ANRC top rider rating. She has judged shows from Georgia to New York. Wroten has coached several award-winning teams, including an individual national champion and national reserve champion in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association; multiple Old Dominion Athletic Conference champion and reserve champion teams; and several American National Riding Committee champion and reserve champion teams.
Lynchburg College is finalizing an agreement with Thistledown Farm to host its equestrian program.
See the news release here.
Wroten posted this message on Sweet Briar’s facebook page March 26.
As we all process our way through the shock of the announcement about our beloved Sweet Briar and move toward addressing the uncertainty of the future, each of us has tried to find a path forward for the ideals and culture that have made Sweet Briar riding so special. It was this pursuit of a way forward that led me to take a call from Lynchburg College Athletics Director Jon Waters. During the call and throughout numerous follow up conversations as Jon shared the Lynchburg vision and hope for expansion of their existing riding program, it became apparent that a unique opportunity existed to enhance collegiate riding at a local college, provide continuity of instruction for Sweet Briar students and to preserve many of the principles of excellence that the Sweet Briar riding tradition has been founded upon. It is for these reasons that I have accepted the position as the Director of Riding at Lynchburg College. I will finish out the semester and my obligations with Sweet Briar College before stepping into my new role as the Director of Riding at Lynchburg College.
As you can imagine, this decision did not come without a tremendous amount of soul searching and research about the Lynchburg leadership and it’s commitment to excellence. As someone who has spent more than half my life in service to the students, horses and community of Sweet Briar, I fully understand how the program has impacted lives for generations. However, with the path that has been laid out for the college, the only prudent course at this time is to move forward with this new endeavor and attempt to maintain as much continuity with staff, horses and instruction as possible.
While many of the details of the Lynchburg College riding program future are still evolving, the program is very excited about the opportunity to work out of Thistledown Farm in Lynchburg, Virginia. We will work rapidly to develop this facility into a collegiate riding facility with 22 stalls, 4 large fields, 2 large paddocks, 1 small ring, and we will enlarge & cover a ring that will be approximately 120’ x 220’. Lynchburg College is working to acquire approximately 12-15 of the SBC horses to assure the standards of excellence that we have come to expect. Additional resources will be developed as demand dictates.
I am very confident that Jon Waters, Athletic Director and the institutional leadership at Lynchburg understand and respect how special the Harriet Howell Rogers Riding Center is to the equine world. In light of this, they have assured me that in the event that Sweet Briar College is open to students and operating a riding program in the Fall of 2015, I would be free to return to lead the Sweet Briar College program with the probability of Lynchburg riders becoming a part of the Rogers Riding Center community.
To my fellow alums and to all of those who have been touched by the greatness of the Sweet Briar riding program, I hope that you will see this as a unique opportunity to continue to serve the central Virginia area and the horse world with the same spirit and ideals that made our program so unique.
I appreciate all that you have done for the Sweet Briar College Riding Program and myself.