Big Gymkhana Family Weekend 2017

Our riders round the turn and race for home!
Threats of illness and inclement weather failed to prevent family and friends from flocking to campus and supporting their Toads and the School those Toads call home. Performances on horseback, stage, and field fueled a community spirit that was on display more than ever in the Parents Auction and in various other lively campus gatherings during Big Gymkhana Family Weekend. 

After nine months in Thachers Horse Program, our freshman riders were more than ready to strut their stuff in front of family and friends last weekend during the Big Gymkhana competitions. Many of them arrived in the fall with absolutely no prior experience on a horse—hard to believe given the show of daring feats on display throughout the weekend. Formerly inexperienced riders could be seen racing through poles, leaping over cavalettis, and leaning out of their saddles to grab the silver dollar. 

The riding competition started early in the week with trail course and extreme cowboy races. Following Fridays portion of the competition, which included a few gymkhana races, riders left the field to meet up with family and friends. After enjoying a delicious dinner prepared by the Schools Bon Apetit staff, family and friends showed their love and appreciation for the School during the annual live auction event.

This year’s Parents Auction and Dinner were held under a large tent on the upper tennis courts—a departure from past years. Auction volunteers, led by co-chairs Martha Ehmann Conte P 18 and Phyllis Swindells P ’17, showed teamwork and tireless energy in putting the event together; the final scene under the tent was all-Thacher with the colors of the gymkhana teams adorning each of the tables.

Although a norovirus outbreak on campus in the days leading up to the big event raised doubts about attendance, the tent felt full and lively as the auction got underway. Emcee John Stacey CdeP 1985, P ’19 (dressed in hospital scrubs—a humorous nod to the norovirus panic) and longtime auctioneer Jim Glines kicked off the evening and were followed by a terrific student a capella performance to really get things started.

Perhaps it was the challenges heading into the auction that led to an extraordinary “come from behind” momentum for the evening. Whatever it was, Thacher team spirit under the tent was palpable. Bidding was exciting and included three—and then a surprise fourth—faculty and staff packages.

After the auction, the crowd headed up the hill en masse to the Milligan Center to hear from Head of School Michael Mulligan and to see more student talent during the performing arts sampler.

Final results are still being tallied, but it is clear that all of the energy, generous support, and excitement culminated in the most financially successful auction in the School’s history.

On Saturday, despite the unseasonably wet weather that greeted them, riders and supporters headed out to the Gymkhana Field with enthusiasm and excitement. As per tradition, bagpipers signaled the start of the big day. After team meetings and rousing chants, the captains led their teams in a lap around the field and lined up for the national anthem—sung by Natasha Brown 17 and Sophia Fung 17—and the running of the flags. Then it was off to the races! Events ranged from the more familiar pole bending and barrel races to the more daring events such as ring spearing and rescue race.

The sun made a brief appearance for the final event of the day, the much-anticipated silver dollar pick-up. Membership in this elite Thacher club is earned only by successfully plucking a silver dollar off the ground at a lope. A chance for membership in this group was earned by eleven riders, who qualified earlier in the season by picking up a tennis ball off the ground at a lope. Jake Arculli 20, Tyler Berndt 20, and Chrissy St. George 20 were successful on the big day, earning their spot in this prestigious Thacher club. Those unsuccessful on Big Gymkhana were given more opportunities in the following week. Paiton Gleeson 18, Tomas Fanning 20, Rose O'Neal 17, Luca Pieretti 20, Annika St. George 20, and Mateo Thacher 20 were all successful in the days following the event and joined the ranks of the Silver Dollar Club.


The riders had also been working hard all season long in weekly competitions to earn points for their gymkhana team—Blue, Green, or Orange. The Orange Team took an early lead this season—captained by Steven Jump 17, Rose ONeal 17, Sarah Finch 18, Libby Hatton 18—and remained uncatchable to the end with a total of 13,581 points. Blue and Green battled throughout the season as they vied for second place. In the end, the Green Team (10,640 points)—led by captains Fiona Bean 17, Mikayla Carrier 17, Evan Jackson 17, Paiton Gleeson 18—narrowly beat out the Blue Team (10,001 points)—captained by Karla Ceja 17, Emma Freedman 17, Anthony Nikitopoulos 17, Maya Wilcox 17.

The event concluded with an awards ceremony, during which Director of the Horse Department Cam Schryver announced the days big awards; interspersed were more performances by Carina Fung 20, the freshman drama classes, and the freshman chorus. (See below for lists of Top Ten Freshmen, Top Ten Overall, Top Ten of the Day, and Horsemanship awards.) At the end of the ceremony, members of the horse faculty usurped the stage and performed a special tribute song to Cam and Lori Schryver, who are retiring from Thacher at the end of this year after nearly 30 years of service to the School. 

At the end of the day, families gathered together to enjoy class BBQs on campus. 

To cap off the weekend, folks gathered the next morning in the Milligan Center for the Performing Arts to hear remarks from Janet Richardson CdeP 1983, mother of Jack CdeP 2015 and Sam 17. 

Top Ten Riders Overall
1. Steven Jump [Captain] 17 on Hotshot
2. James Day 20 on Russell
3. Zanna Gulick-Stutz 18 on Two Socks
4. Tommy Brittingham 20 on Corkey
5. Rose O'Neal [Captain] 17 on Lucky
6. Fiona Bean [Captain] 17 on Whizzard
7. Maya Wilcox [Captain] 17 on Snookie
8. Jackson Hollins 20 on Bert
9. Mikayla Carrier [Captain] 17 on Virginia
10. Karla Ceja [Captain] 17 on Goose

Top Ten Riders on Big Gymkhana Day
1. James Day 20 on Russell
2. Rose O'Neal [Captain] 17 on Lucky
3. Tommy Brittingham 20 on Corkey
4. Fiona Bean [Captain] 17 on Whizzard
5. Steven Jump [Captain] 17 on Hotshot
6. Jackson Hollins 20 on Bert
7. Zanna Gulick-Stutz 18 on Two Socks
8. Jose Carpio 20 on Whirlwind
9. Maya Wilcox [Captain] 17 on Snookie
10. Mikayla Carrier [Captain] 17 on Virginia

Top Ten Freshmen
1. James Day on Russell 
2. Tommy Brittingham on Corkey
3. Jackson Hollins on Bert
4. Barkley Bennett on Jazz
5. Jose Carpio on Whirlwind
6. Tomas Fanning on Zee
7. Chrissy St. George on Cash Money
8. Celia Cowles on Brandy
9. Sydney Rosenbaum on Podoco
10. Mateo Thacher on Cady

Horsemanship Bridles (presented to two students in their sophomore or junior year)
Ursula Gately 19 on Mr. Poppy
Abby Romo 19 on Sheron 
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