A Lifetime of Achievement: Veteran Dartmouth Equestrian Coach Honored for Work
Dartmouth riding coach Sally Batton takes a break between events on Saturday during the competition. Before the event, Batton received the Intercollegiate Horse Show Lifetime Achievement award. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Dartmouth senior Helena Witte rides Eddie in the Novice Fences event during the Intercollegiate Horse Show at Dartmouth Riding Cetnter in Etna on Saturday. Witte won second place in the event, which qualifies her to compete in the next level show. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Courtney Norberg of the University of New Hampshire rides Pie out of the arena after competing in the Intercollegiate Horse Show at Dartmouth Riding Center. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover High School senior Maggie Grussing, 17, left, waits to warm up horses during the Intercollegiate Horse Show. Grussing was helping out with the show for the day and exercised horses at the center last summer.
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Margaret Gousse of Colby-Sawyer College rides Ginger in the Intercollegiate Horse Show at Dartmouth Riding Center. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Dartmouth sophomore Alexa Dixon watches the Open Fences competition during the Intercollegiate Horse Show at Dartmouth Riding Center. Dixon later rode in the Intermediate Fences event. (
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Jumps are disassembled and carried out of the arena following the conclusion of the fences competitions during the Intercollegiate Horse Show. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Etna — For three decades, Sally Batton has been a leader in college equestrian competition and management. Members of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association have finally taken notice.
Batton, now in her 23rd year as Dartmouth College’s equestrian coach, became the latest recipient of the IHSA Lifetime Achievement Award on Saturday, prior to the Zone 1, Region 2 Championships hosted by the Big Green at the Dartmouth Riding Center.
Batton became the 21st recipient of the award, handed out by IHSA executive director and co-founder Bob Cacchione in front of the eight teams on hand for the competition.
An Ohio native, Batton earned a bachelor’s degree in equestrian studies at Lake Erie College and a masters at Farleigh Dickinson before before beginning her coaching career at New Jersey’s Centenary College in the mid 1980s. She came to Dartmouth in 1990 and has captured three Ivy League championships while serving as the chair of numerous IHSA committees, as well as regional president, and has been the organization’s National Steward since 2001.
“She’s had outstanding leadership for 30 years,” said Cacchione, whose 50-member board of directors voted to make Batton this year’s only Lifetime Achievement winner. “It’s her type of dedication to the sport that has allowed us to grow so much. When she started, there weren’t that many college teams. Now we’ve got 380 participating schools in 37 regions, and 8,800 riders.”
Always smiling, Batton was thrilled to have received the award, even as she had to shift gears quickly to begin managing Saturday’s event.
“It really means a lot, to be recognized by my peers,” she said. “I’ve been on (the IHSA board) for 30 years and it’s just amazing to think of that growth we’ve had and how many students have been able to compete at the college level.”
Dartmouth’s riders enjoy the experience under the personable Batton, who makes time to home in on every individual’s strengths. Helena Witte, a fourth-year Big Green rider, has made the most of her time with the coach.
“A lot times coaches get one set idea of how a rider should ride and you get kind of squeezed into a box with everyone else,” the senior said. “With Sally, she’s excellent at identifying individual strengths and weaknesses for each rider, to help you fit in with the sport and be effective with your horse.
“She knows that there are some things that come naturally to some people and some things you have to adapt to. It’s been pretty inspiring to see how she coaches.”
Riding the black-and-white patterned Eddie, Witte advanced to Zones with a second-place finish in novice fences, one spot behind Sarah Bassett of regional champion University of New Hampshire. Only the top two riders for each of the eight disciplines advanced to Saturday’s Zone Championships, where they’ll have the chance to qualify for Nationals.
Dartmouth sophomore Alexa Dixon — intermediate flat track — also advanced to Saturday’s Zone 1 Championships at Mount Holyoke College.
Riders are scored on their effectiveness communicating with their horse as well as posture and positioning. Variables include the horses themselves — riders are intentionally assigned animals they’re unfamiliar with — as well as the preferences of judges.
“It can be tough, because different judges are subjective toward different things when they’re evaluating a rider,” said Dixon, who edged the University of Vermont’s Annie Fitzgerald to win the intermediate flat event. “The way you execute and use your hands and legs can be judged differently depending on the day, but we’re all in the same boat when it comes to that.”
Dartmouth senior Courtnie Crutchfield narrowly missed a trip to Zones, placing third in the walk trot. Tasha Bock was fourth in the walk-trot-canter, one spot ahead of teammate Rochele Brown. Abby Franklin was fifth in the novice flat, Dixon was third in intermediate fences and Witte was sixth in the novice flat. Janna Wandzilak competed, but did not place, for the Big Green.
The regional champion Wildcats sent six riders to Zones, placing first or second in all but two of the events.
Dartmouth placed third in the regular season, behind UNH and UVM.
Jared Pendak can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3306.