Having earned regional high-point honors, Hanna Myrdahl â€™17 is representing Washington College at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Associationâ€™s National Championships.
For the first time in over a decade, Washington Collegeâ€™s equestrian team has sent a rider to compete for top honors at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Associationâ€™s National Championships, taking place this week in Harrisburg, Pa.
Hanna Myrdahl â€™17 finished the season as the high-point rider in the open classâ€”the IHSAâ€™s top divisionâ€”in the Collegeâ€™s highly competitive region, which encompasses southeastern Pennsylvania, the Eastern Shore, and part of New Jersey. Thatâ€™s an automatic shot to compete for the Cacchione Cup at the Nationals, which will include classes on the flat as well as over fences.
â€śSheâ€™s a very solid, competitive rider,â€ť says Chris Bigelow, Washingtonâ€™s coach. â€śItâ€™s highly unusual that a freshman qualifies for the Cacchione Cup.â€ť
Teams and individuals compete at the Nationals. WCâ€™s team this season tied for fifth in its region, so it wonâ€™t compete in Harrisburg. But Myrdahlâ€™s consistent top finishes in the open class mean she will compete as an individual rider representing Washington College in the event named after Bob Cacchione, who helped develop what would become the IHSA in the late 1960s.
Myrdahl, who is studying political science and anthropology but hasnâ€™t declared her major yet, has been riding since she was 5 years old. From the home in southeastern Pennsylvania where she grew up riding, she attended boarding school in Sweden during high school. She learned about Washington College through a colleague of her father; after visiting last spring as a high school senior, she loved it and applied. She didnâ€™t know the College had a riding team until she arrived last fall.
â€śWhen I found out there was a team, I wanted to joinâ€ť she says. She will take over co-captain duties next fall with Cristin LaLone â€™17, after current captain Amanda Kloetzli â€™14 graduates this spring.
Myrdahl didnâ€™t come to WC alone; she brought her Belgian warmblood, named Vasco, with her and boards him nearby. She has owned and ridden him competitively since she was 12. â€śI wouldnâ€™t be able to leave him for anything,â€ť she says. â€śWe have been through so much together.â€ť
During IHSA competition, though, Myrdahl rides whatever horse she draws, just like all the other riders. Under IHSA rules, participating schools provide horses for their students and visiting teams when they sponsor a show. Riders draw mounts before classes, preventing any one rider from having a particular advantage over another and placing the emphasis on riding skill and adaptability. The system levels the playing field and provides opportunities for students who donâ€™t have a lot of money to participate in what is a notoriously expensive sport.
More than 9,000 riders representing 400 colleges in 45 states and Canada compete in the IHSA. WC has only once before sent a rider to the Nationals; in 2002, the teamâ€™s first year of competition, Annette Bangert â€™03 placed fourth in the equitation division.