IHSA National Finals – May 8

Berry College wins Intercollegiate Horse Show Association national western championship.

Berry College wins Intercollegiate Horse Show Association national western championship.

By Larri Jo Starkey

Alexandra Jones of Berry College wipes a tear away as she wins a national championship in her last class as a college athlete. Ally will be a GA for Berry next year. (Larri Jo Starkey photo). To see more photos, scroll to the slide show below.

Little Berry College — just 10-15 students on the western team in any given year — captured the IHSA national western team title May 8 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

“It is amazing,” 14-year coach Margaret Knight said of her college’s first championship. “It’s better than I ever imagined. (The students) are hard-working, and I just give them all the credit.”

Berry relied on consistency, placing third or higher in every team class. It was paced by senior Alexandra Jones, who placed fourth or higher in every class she was entered in, including open team horsemanship, where she won the AQHA trophy that comes with the national title.

Ally was second in the AQHA high-point rider competition, a individual contest spread across two days that tests the top 24 riders in horsemanship and reining.

Rebekah Irish of Black Hawk College won the AQHA high-point western rider.

The 26-year-old worked for cutting trainers in California before returning to college to get a degree, she said. In addition to riding for Black Hawk, Rebekah has been on the school’s noted horse judging team, and she rode in IHSA with a championship judging buckle from the AQHA World Championship Show. Black Hawk is a two-year college, and Rebekah’s next move will be to Middle Tennessee State University, where she plans to judge.

“I’m taking advantage of every opportunity I can, and we’ll see where the chips fall,” she said.

Rebekah also won open individual horsemanship and open individual reining, giving her three prize TexTan saddles from AQHA and no real idea what to do with them.

“First I need a horse,” she said.

She might consider Flips Freckle, named the top western horse of the competition.

The 1998 sorrel gelding, owned by the University of Findlay, arrived at the college as an unbroken yearling. “Flip Flop” went through the school’s breaking program to become a reiner at age 3 and has since been shown at the Region Four Championships, winning the title in novice youth reining and youth reining in 2008.

“He’s just a nice horse,” said AQHA Professional Horseman Clark Bradley, Findlay’s head coach. “He’s easy to get along with. We’re proud of him. He’s a neat horse.”

Flip Flop is by Aleopes Smartcolonel and out of Freckles Boon Bar by Doctor Boon. He was bred by Gary and Stella Fry of Konawa, Oklahoma.

For more photos from IHSA competition, watch the Journal slide show below. Click on each photo to view the caption.

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