Nigel Lancaster's reining pattern, which he did aboard a daughter of Tinsel Nic, helped him secure the championship at the 2020 IHSA Invitational. • Photo courtesy of IHSA.

College Reiners Shine at IHSA Invitational Championship

A collegiate rider from Ohio won the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) Invitational at the American Paint Horse Association World Championship show thanks in part to his reining skills.

Nigel Lancaster, from Hilliard, Ohio, came away as IHSA Champion after showcasing his skills in both the reining and horsemanship phases. He was one of twelve IHSA Western High-Point Open riders invited to the competition.

“The IHSA High Point Rider Versatility Championship was a huge success today just because it gave us a chance to highlight the best of the best that were shortchanged during the 2020 season,” IHSA Western Committee Chair Amanda Ellis said in a statement. “Not only did we have great horses for us to sit on that were given to us by the exhibitors here at the World Show, but also the caliber of riding was phenomenal as well.”

She added that she knew many member schools in the country not able to horse show right now due to COVID-19, and hoped they were able to watch the IHSA Invitational’s live stream and are excited and inspired for the spring.

The IHSA Invitational began with each of the 12 riders performing the reining pattern. The judges rewarded consistent riding on two different mounts and scores were tight after the initial round of competition, with the top three spots bringing in scores above 145 points. Lancaster and Ashton Knerr from Plain City, Ohio. secured the top two spots with a tied score. 

Reining Phase

Lancaster rode to duplicate scores of 73.5, aboard Gunnataxya, a palomino gelding by Equi-Stat Elite $3 Million Sire Gunnatrasha and out of Sannie Shine (by Shining Spark) owned by Deb Oneguard, for a total first-round score of 147 points. 

Knerr piloted Tinselena Spark (Tinsel Nic x Shining Sparkolena x Smart Chic Olena) to scores of 75.5 and 71.5, tying Lancaster’s 147. Hart Daniels, hailing from Vaughan, Mississippi, took third place with a 146 aboard Starlight Driver, a gelding by Hydrive Cat and out of Starlights Lynn (by Grays Starlight) owned by Kelsey Delaplaine.

Horsemanship Phase

Then it was time to switch mounts for the horsemanship phase. Riders showcased their abilities on the flat at the walk, jog and lope both with and without stirrups. Competitors then piloted their mounts through a pattern demonstrating a smooth, effortless ride. 

Grand Island, Nebraska native Matthew ‘Matt’ Graves rode to the win in the horsemanship phase. His consistent and polished riding aboard the 17-year-old paint gelding He Thinks Hes Special (PT) (Special Invitation x Zippos Gold Model x Zippos Old Gold), owned by Ryan Urech, stood out among the field. Travis Fortune from Booneville, Indiana took the second spot with A Krymsun Legacy (PT), a horse by One Hot Krymsun and out of Zippos Satin N Lace x Zippos Sensation) owned by Darcie Winiewicz. Lancaster placed third aboard Amanda Bennet’s Sensational Effect (PT) (Zippos Sensation x Ms Special Effects x Skip Light Lee).

The Tie Breaker

Knerr and Lancaster, who grew up riding together at Ollie and Debbie Griffith’s Autumn Rose Farm in Delaware, Ohio, rode the reining pattern once more to determine the overall IHSA Invitational champion. 

“Those two riders have been riding reining horses since they were seven years old and they’re best of friends, they live within 15 minutes of each other,”  Griffith,an  IHSA National Associate Steward, said in a statement. “They’re just amazing. One went to the University of Findlay. One went to Ohio State. And it just couldn’t be better for us.”

Piloting Tinselena Spark, Lancaster rode the final pattern in beautiful style earning the high score of 148.5. Lancaster’s third-place performance in the horsemanship phase helped secure the IHSA Invitational Championship. 

Lancaster’s winning mount, who goes by the barn name “Tin Tin,” an 11-year-old mare owned by John McDaniel and handled by Cathy Luse, was awarded the High Point Horse title.

“I love how the two organizations came together and collaborated on this,” said Lancaster. “It’s really nice because we had to cancel the fall season and it was a great way to come and show together.”

Knerr rode the 5-year-old gelding Gunnataxya for her run-off round. Her consistency in the saddle earned her a run-off score of 146.5 and a fourth-place in horsemanship aboard Chris Russell’s bay overo mare Original Barbie (PT) (The Original Cowboy x Sensational Blonde x Zippos Sensation) to take home the overall reserve call. 


1. Nigel Lancaster / Hilliard, Ohio / 211

2. Ashton Knerr / Plain City, Ohio / 183

3. Matthew ‘Matt’ Graves / Grand Island, Nebraska / 135

4. Matthew ‘Matt’ Winter / Punta Gorda, Florida / 132

5. Travis Fortune / Booneville, Indiana / 115

6. Hart Daniels / Vaughan, Mississippi / 112

7. Nathan Sparren / Bolivar, Ohio / 106

8. Anna Woolsey / Skiatook, Oklahoma / 100

9. Sarah Thompson / Newburg, Oregon / 91

10. Chloe Alhaig / Chandler, Arizona / 73

11. Kendall Viel / Lawrenceburg, Indiana / 46

12. Teah ‘Teah Mae’ Taylor / Amarillo, Texas / 36


1. Nigel Lancaster / Hilliard, Ohio / 147

2. Ashton Knerr / Plain City, Ohio / 147

3. Hart Daniels / Vaughan, Mississippi / 146

4. Nathan Sparren / Bolivar, Ohio / 145.50

5. Matthew ‘Matt’ Winter / Punta Gorda, Florida / 136

6. Sarah Thompson / Newburg, Oregon / 135

7. Anna Woolsey / Skiatook, Oklahoma / 133.5

8. Kendall Viel / Lawrenceburg, Indiana / 131

9. Chloe Alhaig / Chandler, Arizona / 121.5

10. Teah ‘Teah Mae’ Taylor / Amarillo, Texas / 108


1. Matthew ‘Matt’ Graves / Grand Island, Nebraska / 225

2. Travis Fortune / Booneville, Indiana / 211

3. Nigel Lancaster / Hilliard, Ohio / 196

4. Ashton Knerr / Plain City, Ohio / 156

5. Matthew ‘Matt’ Winter / Punta Gorda, Florida / 132

6.  Anna Wooley / Skiatook, Oklahoma / 110

7. Chloe Alhaig / Chandler, Arizona / 81

8. Sarah Thompson / Newburg, Oregon / 73

9. Nathan Sparren / Bolivar, Ohio / 51

10. Hart Daniels / Vaughan, Mississippi / 49

11. Teah ‘Teah Mae’ Taylor / Amarillo, Texas / 36

12 Kendall Viel / Lawrenceburg, Indiana / 20