BY NINA FEDRIZZI
Beezie Madden won it for Southern Seminary in 1984. Peter Wylde took the title for Tufts two years later. If ever there was a predictor of future greatness in collegiate riding, the coveted Cacchione Cup at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) National Championship might be it.
Most IHSA riders know their chance of winning the title is a long shot—and especially in their sophomore year. But Savannah College of Art and Design’s (SCAD) Adam Edgar of Leesburg, Virginia had no misconceptions: he knew what he was up against. “This has been my goal from the beginning of the year, to win this class,” says Adam, matter-of-factly.
Taking place over three phases and two days, the first, over-fences round of the 2019 USEF/Cacchione Cup kicked off on a drizzly morning inside the light and bright new Exposition Center at the Great New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, New York. Twenty-four riders from around the country tempted their fates on the surprisingly challenging, 10-obstacle course, which began with a technical series of bending lines—one of which led to two unexpected dismounts and multiple refusals. Adam, for his part, was relieved to have drawn Vinny, a reliable mount that he and his SCAD teammates had been watching carefully all week.
“We’d nicknamed him ‘Vinny With the Good Hair,’” Adam jokes. “When I drew him, my whole team was very, very happy. I knew he was a good horse.
“I got a lot of pointers to be smooth and soft, because he’s big and big-strided. You know when you get on a horse and you walk into the ring if they want it too, and I got really lucky, because most every horse I jumped this week had a huge heart—Vinny walked in and he knew a job needed to be done.”
With a score of 85, Adam became the first of only four riders to earn 80 or more in Phase I. Michael Andrade of Centenary University earned an 82 for his sharp, effective round on Clarissimo. Rochester Institute of Technology’s Claudia Freeman squeaked into second place on an 83 with Lucky, while Kelsi Okun, one of the last to go, earned an 80 for Stanford University. Later that afternoon, all 24 riders returned to compete in the flat phase of the competition, broken into two sections.
Once again, Adam led the way on a score of 86, with Andrade close behind on 84. Okun earned an 81, while Freeman’s score of 77 was enough to keep her in the top-four and to qualify for Saturday’s USEF/Cacchione Cup Work-Off Phase.
“I thought I went right in off the bat and laid down a really good first round jumping, and I thought I improved from the first day on the flat [during Phase II], which they rewarded me for,” says Adam, adding that going into the work-off as the overnight leader was a new sensation for him.
“I have never, in my entire riding career, led the first two rounds of a final or gone into the final round on top. I was always working [my way] up,” he says.
“Last night, of course, like anyone [else], I had my moment of being like, Oh my God. What happens if I chip tomorrow? What if I draw a bad horse?” Adam admits. “I tried [not] to think of it, and I have amazing teammates that helped to keep me distracted, but I also went to bed early [laughs]. I knew if I was awake, I would be thinking about it!”
The strategy was a good one. On Saturday, the judges’ test didn’t pull any punches, beginning with a half-ring circle of jumps off the left lead to a trot fence across the diagonal. The work-off’s trickiest portion followed: a short, right rollback turn to a bending two-stride, proceeding directly to a forward, bending five stride, with a halt directly in front of the in-gate. The pattern ended with a short, right lead circle back to the final panel jump, before riders were allowed to exit the arena.
Second to go in the callback order, Adam had drawn Hollins University’s Clarissimo, another highly desirable grey mount. But he was already wrestling with nerves. “I had just done the Open Over Fences [class], and I had a little bobble in the trot jump, and they moved me down, so I was a little discouraged about that,” Adam explains. “I think everything happens for a reason, [though], and that really amped me up, and I think it amped my coach up too. We went in to walk, and I was getting a little anxious, and [Head Coach Ashley Henry] just said, ‘Breath. It’s time to focus. This is your moment now.’
“[Ashley] is amazing. She knows I’m good under pressure, but there’s a certain way I work the best training-wise. She’s done an amazing job [helping me] perfect my style without changing it,” Adam continues.
“We planned to get the [bending] five done early, so I could sit up in the air and land into my heel, and halt quickly, so I could get him back and rollback [on the final jump]. I really think, nailing that last jump off the short turn—I was turning the corner being like, Please, for the love of God, see this turn, you have made it this far, do not trip!”
Fortunately, neither Clarissimo nor Adam tripped at all, and the plan went off without a hitch, earning Edgar the decisive victory from first to last. Gambling on an impressive, inside turn that no one else attempted, Claudia Freeman moved from fourth place to second, with Michael Andrade taking third, and Kelsi Okun fourth.
Linking arms with runner-up Freeman as the final two placings were called, Adam Edgar could only reflect on how much the moment meant to him—and how far he’d come. “[This win] means everything to me. I really feel like I did it for everyone else today, but it was a very big, personal win, and I really feel like I proved [myself] to myself, if that makes sense?
“I had the goal when I was a junior that I wanted to win a final. I had that all in my head, and I never accomplished it. I really beat myself up over it during my freshman year [at SCAD], and I thought [my career] was over,” Adam reflects.
“Once you age out of the juniors, and you go to college, it’s real life. You’re thrown to the wolves and people don’t have to be nice [to you] anymore. That was a really tough thing for me to learn, and I really let it get in my head. 2018 was a really tough year, but I’m so blessed that it happened, because it’s helped me overcome so much.
“I’m honored to be put on a trophy with Beezie Madden and people like that. It’s not a one-weekend commitment, it’s years that I’ve put into it,” Adam continues. “But I’ve loved every second.”
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