Recent changes in placement made at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) Regional 3 Finals (which in turn set the stage for the upcoming Zone 1 Finals) could have steered competition and those involved in a completely different direction, but Lexie Ferris (UMASS, ‘21) made an amazing decision that changed the course of the weekend. It is a consideration that will stay with her – and her competitor, Libby Sams (Mount Holyoke College) – for days to come, further encouraging the upward trajectory of the incredible student-athletes that they both already are.
Regardless of the official scoring collected at the end of the IHSA Zone 1 Finals on Saturday, this is an event that has a great storyline and winning feelings before it even begins.
At the Regional 3 Finals, the judge asked a few riders to compete to determine the two placements that would move on to Zone 1 Finals in the Individual Novice Flat. The judge then picked four riders to test, before then requesting both Lexie and Libby to switch horses and perform the same test once more. The initial results came in which placed Lexie in first and Libby in second, with the two riders successfully on to the Zone 1 Finals. Unfortunately – and unbeknownst to the riders at the time – but there was to be a change in the placements and Libby – who had worked so hard to earn second – would be pushed down to third. That new placement would, in turn, move her out of the Zone 1 Finals for the flat.
When she learned of this change in placements and the fate of her fellow rider, Lexie made the choice to forgo her second place spot in order to allow Libby to obtain second and a spot back in the Zones for the Flat competition. She felt for Libby, knew the stakes, and made the genuinely incredible decision to make a difference. Lexie did earn a spot in the Zones for Individual Fences, so she’ll be representing UMASS in that event. Rest assured, both riders will be pulling for one another in their respective events.
From Lexie’s coach, Dani Corkill: “Lexie is the team barn manager and an integral part of the UMass Huntseat Equestrian Team. Her dedication to the wellbeing of the horses and upholding the integrity of the sport come second to none. I’m incredibly proud and humbled by her decision to give up her spot in Individual Novice Flat at the IHSA Zone 1 Finals after an unfortunate error in placings at Regional Finals. We will be rooting for Lexie in Individual Novice Fences and Libby Sams from Mount Holyoke College in Individual Novice Flat at Zone 1 Finals on Saturday, April 6 at the Mount Holyoke College Equestrian Center. The competition will be available to watch via live stream and we look forward to a great show!”
Lexie’s words speak volumes: “When I got the email the other day regarding a change in placings, I immediately felt awful for Libby,” Lexie states, “I know how hard she worked this year in order to compete at Regional 3 Finals. I would have been heartbroken if I was in her place. I have shown against Libby for the past two years and we often have gone head to head, competing to figure out who is the better rider. She has always pushed me to do better, to be better, and to be the best I could be without us ever really speaking. If anything, Libby is one of the main reasons my riding has grown over the past two years.”
“At Regional 3 Finals, after we both rode to the best of our abilities, the results were called with both of us moving on to Zone 1 Finals. Libby got off her horse, ran over to me, gave me the biggest hug, and congratulated me on the win. She told me that she couldn't wait to cheer me on at the Zone 1 Finals in a week’s time. After showing for many years, I rarely see that kind of sportsmanship from a rival team or barn. I was overjoyed in that moment to be a part of the IHSA and the UMass Hunt Seat Equestrian team, to be able form relationships, and to have experiences like these that I know I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”
“I believe both Libby and I deserved a shot at Zone 1 Finals and the chance to go on to Nationals. There was no reason she shouldn't have placed initially, given her outstanding sportsmanship, work ethic, and personality. Looking towards Saturday, I have been training as hard as I can in order to be my best and give myself a chance to move on to Nationals. Even after all the hard work I have put in, at the end of the day, I know that winning isn't everything. My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother trained horses for years and they always taught me that it doesn't matter how many Blue Ribbons you've won or who you beat to get there -- if there comes a day when you can't ride and do the thing you love, the people you surround yourself with and the relationships you cultivate are what matter most.”
“In this situation, giving Libby my spot and allowing her to show everyone what an amazing rider she has worked to become is more of a reward than any ribbon would be. I can't wait to cheer Libby on this Saturday, and if she makes it to Nationals, I will be cheering her on all the way. She deserves to be where she is.”
And you, Lexie, deserve a standing ovation.
Best of luck to both riders this weekend, as well as in your future endeavors!
Want to watch the competition? Catch the action with the Live Stream here.