Dec 19, 2023

Top of their Class: The Leading Riders of the Intercollegiate Eventing Program in 2023

By Kaleigh Collett - USEA Staff
The Champion University of South Carolina - Aiken Eventing Team in the opening ceremony at the 2023 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship. USEA/Shelby Allen photo.

The USEA is proud to look back on another fantastic competition season for our Collegiate members. In 2023, the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program completed another successful Intercollegiate Eventing Championship, this time at Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, North Carolina, and year-end champions were crowned in all but the Advanced level. As we look towards 2024, the USEA celebrates these bright young riders!

The USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program was created in 2014 to provide a framework on which eventing teams and individual competitors could flourish at universities and colleges across the country. Collegiate athletic programs have been the training grounds for Olympians, amateur athletes, and professional athletes for generations, so adding a collegiate program to the USEA’s offering was a natural addition. Since its inception, the Intercollegiate Program has seen many of its members go on to have successful professional careers, contribute to the sport in “behind the scenes” roles such as grooms, coaches or on USEA committees and task forces, and take on full-time jobs outside of the industry while still nurturing their passion to compete.

University of South Carolina – Aiken Makes History at the 2023 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship

After days of top-class competition at the 2023 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship, held May 26-28, it was the small but mighty team from the University of South Carolina – Aiken that came out victorious. This year’s Championship saw 87 horses and 23 teams from 13 colleges and universities battle for the coveted Championship title, and in the end, it would be the team comprised of Alexa Duncan, Heidi Gyselinck, Carson Langenberg and Sydney Shinn who would take home the title.

The city of Aiken has long had a rich equestrian history, but they had yet to add an Intercollegiate Championship title to their repertoire. USC – Aiken is a small school with just over 3,000 undergraduate students, and typically has only been able to field one or two teams at the Championship. Compared to other former Champions like the mammoth University of Kentucky or University of Georgia, for example, who can field 5+ teams every year, USC – Aiken could be seen as an underdog. However, they never lacked talent. USC – Aiken teams finished within the top-5 at the 2018 and 2019 Championships and have been knocking at the door for a win.

“I felt like we were going to give at least a couple of the teams a run for their money. I just didn’t expect that we would pull into first,” said Langenberg reflecting on the Championship. “We were really holding our breath when they announced second place, because it easily could have been us, and we’d be grateful to be second. When they announced it, even all the teams around us started cheering for us!”

Boy, did they cheer. The 18 members from the University of Georgia surrounded the USC – Aiken students, including fellow teammate Wesley Ann Norton who rode on a scramble team, and created a tunnel for them to break through as they ran to the podium to be honored for their win. The electricity in the covered arena was palpable, and all the schools were rooting for the Pacers.

“We were really luck to have well-prepared, good horses that performed their best over the weekend,” said Shinn. “Everyone was super supportive, and it was so fun cheering everyone on as they came through the finish flags.”

Since their victory, the town of Aiken honored the team by creating a road sign that reads “University of South Carolina Aiken: U.S. Eventing Association 2023 National Champions” on the way to campus. That is a celebration worthy of an Intercollegiate Champion!

USEA Overall Year-End Leaderboards

Beginner Novice Intercollegiate Rider of the Year: Ajay Ryan

Photo courtesy of Ajay Ryan

Ajay Ryan is a dedicated member of the University of Kentucky Eventing Team that swept the Spirit Award contest at this year’s USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship. On her way being crowned Beginner Novice Intercollegiate Rider of the Year, Ryan competed her own 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, Master Machiavelli (Rebel Montai. X Dunboy Diamond), at several horse trials, the Intercollegiate Championship and the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds.

Ryan and Master Machiavelli’s best results came at the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship at the Tryon Spring H.T. (Mill Spring, North Carolina) where they won the Beginner Novice Rider division on their dressage score of 27.8 and helped the UK Wildcats team secure third place. Before that event, Ryan and Master Machiavelli also logged two podium finishes, taking home third place in the Beginner Novice Rider division at the Spring Bay H.T. (Lexington, Kentucky) and River Glen Spring H.T. (New Market, Tennessee) in April. They also placed in the top-5 in the Beginner Novice Rider Championship division at the USEA AEC. After such a successful season at the level, Ryan capitalized on the momentum and moved Master Machiavelli up to Novice at the Flying Cross Farm H.T. (Goshen, Kentucky) in September.

Novice Intercollegiate Rider of the Year: Katherine Holzrichter

USEA/Lindsay Berreth photo

This year’s Novice Intercollegiate Rider of the Year, Katherine Holzrichter, is a member of the Randolph-Macon College Eventing Team and campaigned her own 16-year-old Cleveland Bay mare, Idlehour Center Stage (Idlehour Yorktown x Opening Night), on her way to the year-end title. While Holzrichter was not part of the RMC contingent that represented the school at the 2023 Intercollegiate Championship, she had several top results at horse trials in Area II and at the AEC.

The summer competition season started strong for Holzrichter and Idlehour Center Stage when they collected back-to-back wins in June. The first Champion title came in the Novice Rider division at the MCTA H.T. at Shawan Downs (Cockeysville, Maryland) where they finished on their dressage score of 29.7 on June 3. Two weeks later, they collected another win in the Senior Novice Rider division at the Seneca Valley Pony Club H.T. (Poolesville, Maryland), again finishing on their dressage score, which bested their result at the MCTA H.T. by .5 points. Holzrichter closed out their competition season with a sixth-place finish in the Novice Rider Championship division at the AEC.

Training Intercollegiate Rider of the Year: Grace Ransom

USEA/Lindsay Berreth photo

Grace Ransom, a member of the equestrian studies program and the eventing team at the University of Findlay, is deeply ingrained in the sport of eventing. After spending two summers interning for Carol Kozlowski, she was ready to take all of the knowledge and experience she gained and translate it to her partnership with the University of Findlay’s Bright Prince (Eddington x Queen of Money), a 16-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, who she started riding in early 2022. Her dedication proved to be invaluable as she competed in eight recognized events this year on her way to being named Training Intercollegiate Rider of the Year.

Ransom and Bright Prince had four podium finishes at the Training level throughout the year, including a second place at the Winona Horse Trials (Hanoverton, Ohio) in May, a win at the Genesee Valley Hunt H.T. (Geneseo, New York) in July, a third place at the Huntington Farm H.T. (South Strafford, Vermont) in August, and another reserve champion title at the Flying Cross Farm H.T. in September, where they were part of the fourth place University of Findlay – Oilers team in the Intercollegiate Team Challenge held at the event. Ransom and Bright Prince also successfully competed in the Training Amateur Rider Championship at the AEC and the Training Three-Day Event held at Hagyard Midsouth (Lexington, Kentucky) this fall to close out their season.

Modified Intercollegiate Rider of the Year: Maggie Buchanan

Photo courtesy of Maggie Buchanan

Maggie Buchanan of North Carolina State University had a very successful year competing at the Modified level on Dr. Cindy Buchanan’s 3, 2, 1 Blastoff (Greystone’s Adirondack A’Herne x Dolly), an 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding. Buchanan not only saw great success individually, but she competed as a member of the NC State Eventing Team at an Intercollegiate Team Challenge as well.

In March, Buchanan and 3, 2, 1 Blastoff had their first Modified run of the year at the Southern Pines H.T. (Raeford, North Carolina), where they finished in third place individually and contributed to a fourth-place finish for the NC State Eventing Team in the Team Challenge. Later in the summer, the pair bested their results from March by taking home reserve champion in the Open Modified at the Five Points H.T. (Raeford, North Carolina). Finally, they closed out their season with another bronze medal performance at the Virginia Horse Center Eventing Fall (Lexington, Virginia) in the Modified Rider division.

Preliminary Intercollegiate Rider of the Year: Sydney Shinn

USEA/Shelby Allen photo

Sydney Shinn of the University of South Carolina - Aiken is no stranger to the spotlight. As a member of this year’s national championship winning team, Shinn successfully competed two horses throughout the season: her own 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, HSH Crypto (Casallco x Cumano Kiss), at the Preliminary/2* level, and her own 4-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare, Sunshine and Whiskey (Bridon Beale Street), at Beginner Novice and in the Young Event Horse (YEH) Program. Not only did HSH Crypto help to add Shinn’s name to the Intercollegiate Championship trophy, but he also propelled her to the top of the Preliminary Intercollegiate Rider leaderboard.

Shinn purchased HSH Crypto from Caroline Pamukcu after he recorded a top-10 finish at the 2021 Dutta Corp. USEA YEH East Coast Championships at the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill (Elkton, Maryland), and their partnership has been building ever since.

Coincidentally, the pair’s best result in 2023 came at the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship, where they won the Open Preliminary division on their dressage score of 27.40, contributing the lowest finishing score to the USC – Aiken final team score. Shinn and HSH Crypto went on to collect another podium finish at the Chattahoochee Hills H.T. (Fairburn, Georgia) in July where they brought home third place in the Open Preliminary division. Finally, the pair made their first appearances at the international level this fall, successfully completing the CCI2*-S at the Stable View Oktoberfest 2/3/4* (Aiken, South Carolina) and the Chattahoochee Hills H.T., as well as one CCI2*-L at The Event at TerraNova (Myakka City, Florida).

Intermediate Intercollegiate Rider of the Year: Maya Clarkson

USEA/Lindsay Berreth photo

The final year-end champion, Maya Clarkson, is a member of the University of South Carolina’s eventing team and competed her own 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Maks Mojo C (Mighty Magic x MS Winter Morning) at the Intermediate/3* level in 2023. The pair started their season on a high note with a win in the Intermediate Rider division at Pine Top Intermediate H.T. (Thomson, Georgia) in February, and their season took off from there.

At the Chattahoochee Hills H.T. in March, Clarkson and Maks Mojo C finished in the top-5 in a large CCI3*-S division, and they followed up the result with a sixth-place finish in the Open Intermediate at Stable View Local Charities H.T. in May where they were a member of the USC team for the Intercollegiate Team Challenge. The pair's best result of the year came in the CCI3*-L division at Bromont (Quebec, Canada) where they finished on their dressage score of 32.5 to secure reserve champion. The pair made the move up to Advanced at the Maryland International and Horse Trials (Adamstown, Maryland) in July.

The USEA congratulates all the Intercollegiate Eventing Program participants on a fantastic 2023 competition season. Colleges and universities, don’t forget to renew your Affiliate membership with the USEA and submit your updated rosters to Jennifer Hardwick at [email protected] prior to February 15, 2024. Only students listed on an Intercollegiate roster prior to February 15 will be eligible to receive the discounted membership rate. Also, mark your calendars for the 2024 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship at Stable View in Aiken, SC on May 4-5!

About the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program

The USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program was established in 2014 to provide a framework within which eventing teams and individual competitors could flourish at universities and colleges across the country. The USEA offers a discount of $25 on annual USEA memberships for current students of universities and colleges registered as Affiliates with the USEA. Many events across the country now offer Intercollegiate Team Challenges where collegiate eventers can compete individually or on teams with their fellow students. In Intercollegiate Team Challenges, each rider’s score is multiplied by a coefficient appropriate for their level to account for differences in level difficulty, and then the individual scores are added together to determine the team score. Click here to learn more about the Intercollegiate Eventing Program.

The USEA would like to thank Bates Saddles, Kerrits, Horse & Country, U.S. Equestrian, WeRideTogether, and World Equestrian Brands for sponsoring the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program.

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Official Real Estate Partner of the USEA

Official Equine Insurance of the USEA

Official Forage of the USEA

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Official Horse Boot of the USEA