Darby's Bedinghaus top rider at nationals
Carly Bedinghaus saved her best for last.
The 2012 Hilliard Darby High School graduate was the top rider in the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) Western National Finals held June 28-30 in Oklahoma City, Okla.
"I was really surprised to get overall high points," said Bedinghaus, who will attend Mount Carmel School of Nursing in Columbus this fall. "I've been to nationals eight times and I've only been high-points winner once or twice in smaller events.
"When I finished the Western Horsemanship (in the Varsity Open Division), I knew I did well in that. But my coach came over and said, 'You have a chance.' I said, 'A chance at what?' I just never thought or dreamed that I could win high overall points."
Bedinghaus was one of several area riders and teams to place in the Western National Finals or in the Hunt Seat National Finals in Syracuse, N.Y., on April 20-22.
"I won Western Horsemanship and had pictures taken, but they call overall points last, so I got to go back out and get more pictures and the award," said Bedinghaus, who competed for Dare Equestrian Team of Hilliard. "Winning it my senior year at nationals, in my last year, was icing on the cake. I am going to take a break now and focus on school."
Also in the Western National Finals, Ashley Reichert, a senior at Grove City, won the Varsity Intermediate championship for Dare and Dare won the Middle School championship.
The Western National Finals were part of the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Derby, in which professionals competed following the amateurs.
"I think all of our competitors enjoyed that," said IEA co-founder Myron Leff, who serves on the board and is the organization's communication director.
Leff received the Timothy J. Boone Lifetime Achievement Award for his longtime contribution to the sport of equestrianism and the IEA.
"It's quite an honor to be recognized for setting up the organization that marries children to equestrian sport," Leff said. "To watch the seed of an idea grow into the largest scholastic program in North America is very rewarding."
Another area winner in the Western National Finals was Sarah Shaffer of Westerville. She won a runoff to earn the Interscholastic Reining championship, which pits the top four riders from the IEF against the top four riders from the National Reining Horse Youth Association (NRHYA).
Shaffer, who competed in IEF through middle school, is now with the NRHYA.
"They threw a little wrinkle in there for the runoff," said Shaffer, who attends Ohio State where she is a member of the equestrian team. "The IEF competes with random draw and no warm-up period, so you don't know anything about the horses. In the NRHYA, you ride your own horses. But for this competition, we used IEF rules to make things level."
In the tiebreaking runoff, the judges had Shaffer and her competitor swap horses.
"We were allowed five minutes to warm up and talk to the horses' trainers and try to learn something about the horses," Shaffer said. "It was a lot of fun and it was the culmination of a long year."
Shaffer estimated that she competed in 80 shows between January 2011 and last November.
Also in the Western National Finals, Olivia May, competing for Bay Hill Farms of Powell, was the Future Intermediate Horsemanship champion and Caroline Gute, competing for Autumn Rose Equestrian of Plain City, was the Future Intermediate Reining champion. Autumn Rose was the Reserve Team champion.
In addition, Holly Phillips of Autumn Rose won the NRHA sportsmanship award and Autumn Rose won the team spirit award.
In the Hunt Seat National Finals in Syracuse, Empress Valley of Blacklick won the team title, with Sierra Wilson, competing for Bay Hill Farms, winning the Varsity Open Flat championship and Lauren Capaci, competing for Empress Valley, winning the Reserve Flat championship.
Willow Way Equestrian Center of Johnstown finished seventh in the Middle School Division.