Q+A: Alumni Tournament of Champions
We’re very excited to be supporting this upcoming weekend’s sixth annual Alumni Tournament of Champions! It is an exciting weekend event that attracts Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) riders from across the country to come and compete. Riders competing win accolades from their peers, as well as prizes such as blankets, platters, and even saddle pads!
We recently sat down with Co-Chair Lena Andrews Licata to find out more about this fantastic cause.
SE: Tell us about the Alumni Tournament. Why did you start the event and how long has it been taking place? What is your involvement in the event?
LL: My co-chair Jamie and I were IHSA Alumni Reps for two neighboring regions. We thought it would be fun to organize a friendly competition among our alumni. The show just blossomed from there. We decided not to restrict it to our alumni only. It started as a tiny show in 2012 with less than two dozen riders. We celebrated our 5th anniversary last year and have grown to about 100 riders from across the country. We’ve added new classes along the way for western riders, graduating seniors and reunion riders.
SE: What types of riders does the ATOC attract?
LL: Since we have both a hunt seat and western component, the alumni tournament attracts all sorts of riders across multiple disciplines. All of our riders have to be alumni of the IHSA. This means they are 100% college graduates, making them very attractive to companies looking to advertise products. Lastly, since we’re a national horse show, we attract riders from all across the United States.
SE: What purpose does the ATOC serve?
LL: The purpose of the show is to create a finals atmosphere similar to Nationals for IHSA Alumni. Once graduating from college, it’s hard to manage a career and riding. The IHSA allows alumni the chance to ride without the time and costs associated with horse ownership. However, only a few riders as undergraduates or alumni make the IHSA national horse show each year and even fewer get to participate in the Cacchione and AQHA cup. We wanted to give that experience to more alumni as well as foster an atmosphere for a reunion amongst college riding friends.
SE: What do you recommend for riders wanting to get involved?
LL: The alumni tournament is an annual event; however, the IHSA Alumni Association is around to support alumni all year long. Interested riders can go to their website to find their alumni representative and can ride all year long. The tournament also maintains a website (alumnitoc.com) that has information about our classes and special awards for anyone interested. We publish the prize list in February of each year, and accept entries through May. We also try and post fun pictures of prizes, sponsor contests, trophy and rider pictures throughout the year on our Facebook and Instagram pages.
SE: What other events/activities do you have during the year?
LL: We offer a few additional activities and events that all connect together. First is our annual High Score Award. We collect the points from any active alumni showing with the IHSA and present an award to the top six from across the country. It’s a fun way to see how your year shaped up against other alumni. Secondly, we offer an exhibitor party the night before the tournament. It’s a great way for alumni to mingle and celebrate the upcoming tournament. (It’s also a great excuse to see horse people in clean clothes!) Lastly, we offer a team challenge. We want everyone who attends to have at least two people cheering for them, regardless if they came alone. People can meet other alumni and form a three-person team. Teams even earn bonus points if members are from other states and disciplines.
SE: What’s your goal for this year’s ATOC?
LL: My goal for every ATOC is the same – no one gets hurt and everyone had a good time. It takes us all year to plan this event and we put everything we have into making it the best we can each year. We have some of the most amazing generous sponsors like Success Equestrian and we greatly appreciate everything these sponsors do to make this show special. I am 100% open to feedback and encourage riders every year to let me know what we can do to change and make it even better.
Thank you Lena for sharing with us the secrets behind the ATOC! For those wanting to get involved, check out their Facebook page here!