WWU Team Judges Their Way to National Championships

The judging team at William Woods University was crowned national champions at the U.S. National Arabian Championship Horse Show in Louisville, Ky., Oct. 21.


They returned from the show with numerous ribbons and a shiny trophy given to honor this prestigious title.


The team also took many first place honors the previous week at the Grand National and World Championship Morgan Horse Show in Oklahoma City, Okla., including an individual world champion title to team member Andrew Abeln of Farmington, Minn.


The judging team competes against many collegiate teams from across the country, and they are judged in categories of performance, halter/in hand, and reasons. These three areas are then combined for an overall score.


At the Morgan show, the WWU judging team split into three separate teams for collegiate competition. Team One consisted of Abeln, Caitlin Ferguson of Las Cruces, N.M.; Holly Fisher of Kentwood, Mich., and Colleen Werner of Hamburg, Pa. Team One won first place Performance Division, second place Reasons Division and third place Overall Highpoint.


The members of Team Two were Wendy Branson of Sturgeon, Mo.; Megan Eldridge of Mexico, Mo.; Isabelle Hilgers Warrenville, Ill., and Erin Manka of Brighton, Colo. Together they took sixth place in In Hand Division and ninth place Overall Highpoint.


Team Three consisted of Kelly Hardin of Colorado Springs, Colo.; Ann Kiddy of Cabot, Ark., and Heather Sim of Vernon Hills, Ill. They took fourth place in Performance Division, as well as winning eighth place Overall Highpoint.


Individual awards were also won by many students. Abeln was named World Champion Collegiate Highpoint Individual, and was first place winner in Individual Reasons and sixth in Individual Performance.

Werner was named sixth place Collegiate Highpoint Individual, and also took third place in Individual Reasons. Ferguson took fourth place in Individual Performance, and Branson took fifth in Individual In Hand.


At the U.S. Nationals, the judging team split into two groups. Team One was Abeln, Ferguson, Fisher, Werner and Mary Mandel of Lander, Wyo. This team was named U.S. National Champion Senior Judging Team.


“This is a really big deal,” said Jennie Petterson, western instructor and judging team faculty sponsor. “I cannot emphasize enough how exciting this is.”


Team One also took first place in both Performance and Halter Divisions, and third in Reasons.


Team Two consisted of Branson, Hardin, Kiddy, Sim and Frankie Hart of Lee’s Summit, Mo. Team Two took fourth place Overall, as well as fifth in both Performance and Halter and fourth in Reasons.


Individual awards in Overall went to Mandel, second; Hart, fifth; Fisher, sixth; Werner, seventh, and Abeln, 10th. In Reasons, Mandel placed third and Fisher placed seventh. In Performance, Abeln was fifth, Mandel seventh and Werner 10th. Winners in Halter were Fisher, first; Mandel, fourth; Hart sixth, and Werner eighth.


All awards were won in the Collegiate Division.


Abeln, who was named World Champion at Morgan Grand Nationals and was a member on the winning senior team at U.S. Nationals, feels that it has been a great experience so far.


“It has been lots of fun. I think it’s a really good experience, because it’s helping us to become professional judges, and I do plan to be a judge someday. It’s helped me to build my resume, and it’s helped me a lot with my networking. It’s just a great building block,” said Abeln.


The next show for the judging team will take place after Thanksgiving, when they will travel back to Oklahoma City for the National Reining Horse Futurity.