Skidmore College Wins the Collegiate Cup USEF/Cacchione Cup at IHSA National Championship Horse Show

Competition Saturday at the 2018 Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) National Championship Horse Show included tiebreakers and exciting outcomes. The Skidmore Thoroughbreds maintained a lead throughout the show and finished with 30 points, earning them the right to take the Collegiate Cup home to Saratoga Springs. Reserve champions Savannah College of Art and Design were just two points behind and Stanford University was third with 22 points.

Cindy Ford and the Skidmore College team celebrate their victory. Photo by Al Cook Photography

Skidmore head coach Cindy Ford credited the teamwork of assistant coach Belinda Colgan and the rest of the staff for their success.  This group, she said, could work anywhere at the top of the industry. She also complimented her students for being academically strong, motivated and hard-working. The strong string of Skidmore horses also contribure to their success.

“I’m careful who I choose on my team,” Ford said. “We give them (the students) a lot of attention. I have an amazing group of horses that have been donated to us. They’re cared for as show horses. They have the best veterinarians, the best farriers and they mean the world to us. Between the horses, the staff and the students it’s just a no-brainer. And yet, It still does become the luck of the draw.”

Skidmore’s Clay, who produced many top rounds, was awarded the SmartPak Most Popular Hunter Seat Horse.

Clay, owned by Skidmore College, was awarded the SmartPak Most PoularHunter Seat Horse.
Photo by Al Cook Photography


Judges Diane Carney and Tony Sgarlata determined that the format of the final work-off phase of the USEF/Cacchione Cup would be a challenging course over fences. In a major upset, Makayla Benjamin, a senior at Sweet Briar went from eighth place in the top 10 to win the championship. She drew Collins who was reserve champion, Mollie Kowalchik’s draw in the first phase.

Benjamin has ridden all her life and competed in the Big Eq. Both her parents rode in the IHSA and met while competing at Purdue University. She has been on the IHSA team all four years at Sweet Briar. This is her first time at Nationals.

Makayla Benjamin and Collins from Cazenovia College. Photo by Al Cook Photography

“Over fences is always my stronger suit,” she said. “I was third after the first phase. On the flat I had a really good horse, Gunner, from West Point. I was just happy to come back to test with the top 10. I thought, ‘I can do this.’”

When Benjamin knew she had drawn Collins, she made the decision to make the handier turn to the trot jump. “He was a joy to ride,” she said. “It (the course) posed a lot of questions and I answered most of them right. I was shocked that I was actually in the top three.”

Benjamin is superstitious and tends to keep to a ritual before competing. She has a lucky pair of socks that she wore yesterday and didn’t have on for the final phase.
“I put a clean pair of socks on,” she said. “I guess it worked.”

Benjamin is a mathematical economics major with a double minor in business and engineering. She will spend some time working at Bitterroot Ranch, a dude ranch in Wyoming, before starting her corporate job in February.


Michael Janson from Boston University competed in the Collegiate Cup Open Equitation Over Fences. The judges selected the top four to test over a shortened course that included two changes of lead. Riding Maverick, owned by Savannah College of Art and Design, Janson set him set himself apart by holding the counter canter and turning to the right rather than the left. His choice earned him the judges’ nod and the win.

“There was the option to be creative, which I liked,” Janson said about his round. “The horse was great. The competition was spectacular.”

Janson, a finance major from Berkley, Massachusetts, has ridden most of his life and has competed in the equitation and the jumpers. His family breeds and trains Zangersheide horses.

Michael Janson and SCAD’s Maverick. Photo by Al Cook Photography

“Our team was really special this year—very horse-focused,” Janson said. “Thanks to our amazing coaches., being a part of IHSA has made this special for my senior year. I wouldn’t have been able to compete at such a competitive level if Phyllis hadn’t coached me.”

“He is an unbelievable human being,” said Boston University coach Phyllis Cervelli. “He comes with a lot of mileage. We’re just working on tweaking that intercollegiate part of it.”

Cervelli said it has been since 2001 since Boston University has won a class at Nationals. Most years they send individual competitors but haven’t sent a team since the mid-90s. Janson’s win helped Boston University finish the Collegiate Cup in fourth place.