Equestrian club member off to compete

READY TO COMPETE — Allison Lamantia of Toronto, shown with her mother, Marlene, will be representing Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Equestrian Club this weekend at Utah State University. She will be competing in the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association semi-finals competition as an open horsemanship rider, the highest level of riding a collegiate student can perform. In February, Lamantia qualified for the semi-finals. -- Contributed

TORONTO — Allison Lamantia won’t be “horsing” around this weekend.

But she will be drawing on her horsemanship skills and knowledge atop a horse she’s never ridden before as part of her involvement Saturday and Sunday in the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association semi-finals competition.

The Franciscan University of Steubenville Equestrian Club member will be at Utah State University, competing as an open horsemanship rider in the semi-finals, the decisive step for Western riders and teams to qualify for the IHSA National Championship Horse Show. It will be held May 2-5 in Syracuse, N.Y. IHSA riders compete in a range of levels in Western horsemanship and in the open level in both horsemanship and reining.

Lamantia, 20, is the daughter of Pete and Marlene Lamantia of Toronto. She is a 2016 graduate of Catholic Central High School and a junior at Franciscan University of Steubenville where she is majoring in early childhood education and special intervention.

“Allison will be competing in open horsemanship — the highest level of riding a collegiate student can perform,” explained Amy Watkins of Canfield, who serves as coach of Franciscan’s Equestrian Club.

“She will be asked to get on a horse she does not know and has never ridden. She will be asked to perform transitions along the rail with 16 other individuals to ‘get a feel’ for the horse she drew,” Watkins explained. “Allison will then be asked to perform a pattern with this horse. It is similar to an obstacle course where she has to perform certain maneuvers and transitions alone in the arena. The judges will score each maneuver on her ability to communicate with the horse and to get the horse to perform as well as a score on her posture on the horse.”

Lamantia will be one of 16 riders in the class with the top four riders getting the nod to move to the nationals competition.

Watkins has been Lamantia’s coach for more than five years.

“Allison comes to my farm in Canfield one to two times a week,” her coach said of what constitutes some of Lamantia’s preparation for competition. “I have eight horses that I use for lessons, and she will ride a different one each week. We work on posture transitions and patterns.”

But she also pitches in at the barn, watering and grooming the horses.

“I am so excited for her to represent Franciscan University at the IHSA Semi-Finals,” Watkins said. “She has worked and grown so much over the last five years. Allison’s dedication, professionalism and humbleness is something that all my students strive to follow.”

Lamantia is excited as well about the upcoming adventure in Logan, Utah, albeit a little nervous.

Taking deep breaths helps, she said.

“Breathing is the key,” said Lamantia, who joined IHSA her freshman year, advancing through a competition point system from novice to advanced to open.

All the while, her goal has been to make it to nationals.

“My freshman and sophomore year I qualified for regionals, but I was unable to move on to semifinals, so this is my first year I’m moving on to semi-finals after regionals,” Allison said. “With regionals you have to place top two in your class.” That happened in February during competition in Columbiana, Ohio.

Schools with equestrian clubs compete against each other with a point system determining who advances to regionals level and beyond.

“We have a total of 10 shows in our normal season so you can gain your points during those 10 shows to qualify for regionals,” Lamantia noted.

“For a whole season you have to show and obtain 36 points to go to regionals to qualify,” Allison explained. That has involved competitions, for example, against other schools, including West Virginia University, Youngstown State, Slippery Rock, California University of Pennsylvania and Clarion University of Pennsylvania.

“The schools that are hosting the show provide the horses, and sometimes other schools will bring horses in to help the numbers of people so they will assign the horses to every class that’s appropriate for them, so the difficult horses will be assigned to open (rider), the hard-to-ride ones, so we are basically pulling a name out of a hat to a horse we’ve never known before or touched, and we’re going to ride it in the class,” Allison said.

Added Allison’s mother, “They’re supposed to be judging the rider on her ability to control and handle a horse, because Allison’s qualifying ride was very difficult.”

Said Allison, “At regionals I had a hard horse. He was tired, he had a very long day, he was done, and he was not playing nice with all the other horses, so it was tough, but you’re supposed to show through it, show what you can do and show that you can handle a horse, try to calm him down, show that we could complete the pattern, and I placed second so it showed I could work through that difficult horse.”

That was at the regional show on Feb. 16 at Garwood Arena in Columbiana, Ohio.

While it’s one thing to compete on your own horse that you’re familiar with, it’s something quite different on a first-time mount.

“We get a little description of the horse, what the horse is like,” she said. Then it’s showtime.

“For me, I always take deep breaths, and I know I need to rely on what I know and not get worried or stressed out, because when your horse starts acting up, you know how to calm your horse down, but with these horses, you don’t know, so you have to crack in your toolbox and start trying random things if they start acting up. You might have to try five different things to find what solves your issue, so you have to keep breathing,” Lamantia said of her approach.

Lamantia said she has been preparing for the weekend competition by taking lessons with her coach “and getting on a bunch of different horses with very different styles and temperaments.”

And that preparation comes in the midst of a busy schedule that includes, beyond being a student, working two jobs as a gymnastic teacher and salon receptionist. She also is a coordinator for the America Reads tutoring program for Franciscan and is a tutor in Steubenville City Schools.

She is appreciative of all the support she has received, not only from her parents but also the support the Franciscan Student Government has given the equestrian team. She said she would like to encourage students to join the club.

Franciscan’s Equestrian Club has an English and Western team with six members total. Allison is the only western rider. “The English team was already established, and I started the western team when I came because they didn’t have one,” she said.

Lamantia said her attraction to horses goes back to her grandmother, Theresa Lamantia, who had horses. “I grew up as little girl with her horses and gravitated toward them ever since,” she said.

“I got my first horse, Fancy, when I was 8 years old for my birthday,” Lamantia said. She saved up the money by having seven families save aluminum can tabs. Her parents pitched in the rest for the birthday surprise.

“I have been riding ever since then and in high school I rode IEA,” she said. IEA is an acronym for Interscholastic Equestrian Association. Allison’s older sister, Emily, now 23, also rides and showed at Bethany College as part of its dressage team and Western team.

Lamantia showed Fancy during her Country Classic 4-H days and at the Ohio State Fair level for driving (cart and buggy) and Western showmanship, placing in the top 10.

Next came Moki, a full size American paint horse she had from 2012-17 and competed in English, showmanship and dressage. “I placed at the state fair with him also in the top 10. I also placed when I went to the All American Youth Horse Show, which is a large international horse show for youth so it’s 18 and under to compete in it and any breed of horse. People travel from all different states to compete. It also is held in Columbus. I placed top 10 with him there also,” she added, noting there were 60 competitors in her class. “For the overall show, there were probably a thousand. It’s a big show.”

She also has shown Friesians with her boyfriend, Ben Boyd, and recently purchased another horse, a quarter horse named Biancia. “This year I am actually going to breed her, so I am venturing into the breeding aspect of horses,” she said.

Having and showing a horse was always her intent. “I love competition, the competitiveness of it and the preparation of getting ready for show, the banding and braiding manes, I love to do that. I love the preparation for showing, and I love all the show clothes, all the bling that goes on them,” explained Lamantia, who has shown Western and English.

Marlene Lamantia is proud of her daughter’s commitment and achievements.

“Allison is riding open — she qualified to go to semi-finals for the nationals, so we’re one step away from nationals in the open rider, which that’s the top level of riders that there are, so she is at the highest level that you can be,” Marlene said.

The IHSA was established in 1967, launched with just two colleges competing in hunter seat equitation. In 1979, according to its website, the Western divisions premiered at the IHSA National Championship Horse Show. In 1999 IHSA Inc. was established as a nonprofit organization and now encompasses 40 regions in eight zones with more than 400 member colleges in 45 states and Canada and represents 10,000 members in hunter seat equitation, Western horsemanship and reining. The IHSA promotes competition for riders of all skill levels, who compete individually and as teams at regional, zone and national levels.