We talked with Intercollegiate Horse Show Association coaches Kelly Lamont-Francfort of Rutgers University, Jerry Liberatone of California Polytechnic State University at Pomona, Michele T. Koury of West Virginia University, Eric Hubbard of the College of Southern Idaho, Deborah Rosencrans of New Mexico State University, and Rebekah Bachman of West Texas A&M University to find out more about showing Western. Scroll to the end for an amended list of schools which host Western teams.
How many schools in your IHSA zone and/or region compete in Western
Out of the 10 schools in Zone 3, Region 4, I believe five are planning on participating in Western in 2003. This is more than last year. Note: some teams participate in Western, but their participation is represented by one or two riders, not necessarily a complete team, participating in Western in 2003. This is more than last year.
There are approximately 20 schools that compete Western in Zone 8; there are four to five that compete in Region 2: California Polytechnic State University at Pomona, Mt. San Antonio College, University of San Diego, University of California at San Diego, and sometimes University of Southern California.
Zone 3, Region 3 is new to the Western shows and is showing for the first time this semester. Our zone, which includes four regions for showing English, has divided into two regions for showing Western. There aren't enough Western riders in each region to justify all four regions hosting their own shows. California University of Pennsylvania, West Virginia University, Wilson College, Pennsylvania State University, and Seton Hill College all show Western.
--Michele T. Koury
Currently Zone 8, Region 3 has six schools that all ride Western: Albertson's College of Idaho, College of Southern Idaho, Montana State University, Utah State University, University of Montana, and University of Montana-Western.
Nine schools in Zone 7, Region 1 compete Western. I believe Region 2 has 10 schools. You can show Western with New Mexico State University, Colorado State University, Colby Community College, Laramie County Community College, University of Colorado, University of Wyoming, Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, United States Air Force Academy, and Colorado College.
The schools in Zone 7, Region 2 that have Western teams are: Louisiana State University, North Central Texas College, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Stephen F. Austin State University, Sul Ross State University, Tarleton State University, Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, and West Texas A&M University.
If you were a student selecting a college and hoping to join a Western
equestrian team, what would you look for?
I'd look for a program that had facilities and resources dedicated to Western.
I'd look for a school that has a strong academic history and then a strong team. Students should think about school first, horses second.
I'd look for a school that has been involved in IHSA Western shows for a while and has been winning.
--Michele T. Koury
Look for an experienced coach who has had students compete nationally and in all levels of IHSA. I'd also look for universities and teams which offer financial help for riders. It's tough for students to pay for outfits, travel, food, and entries.
Look for a strong Western program with a history of doing well--both regionally and nationally. A strong program will offer plenty of practice time, school-owned horses to ride, and a credible coach.
I attended a medium-sized university for undergraduate studies, a large university for my masters, and now teach at a small university. I think students who hope to join an equestrian team pick a college because of the team's success record. Other areas to consider include the type and quality of facilities, horses, and instructors.
What would you recommend a student keep in mind if they want to ride and show Western, but won't be an equine studies major? (i.e. Do they need a certain level of experience? How much riding time should they expect to schedule? What will the competition be like?)
Most of the students who ride with Rutgers' Western team aren't equine studies majors. They study everything--engineering, nursing, political science, or foreign languages, to name a few. We're a club sport at Rutgers, and we invite anyone of any experience level. That's one of the best things about the IHSA-you can compete and be a member of the team--no matter what your experience. Because we're a club sport, the students ride once a week.
Be willing to work and practice. You must always remember that competing and practicing isn't always glamorous--most of the time it isn't.
The nice thing about the IHSA is that you can start at the walk/trot level and work your way up. You can be a national champ at any level. Riding time depends on the school that you're attending. Each one requires a different amount. Any where from once a week to three times a week.
--Michele T. Koury
Any person with any experience can ride in the IHSA. They can have any major. There are many riders in the IHSA who aren't equine majors.
The IHSA offers Western-riding opportunities for the very beginning rider to the advanced rider--so experience doesn't matter. Students compete against others at their same level of riding expertise. Here, team practice and competitions require a substantial time commitment. We ride a minimum of three-to-four times per week.
IHSA is based on the premise that there's a place for all levels of riders, so experience isn't really a factor. There are different levels to accommodate all levels of riders. I encourage students to realize that being a part of a successful team requires a time commitment in order to be prepared for competition. If they commit to the time necessary, then I commit to making sure they're prepared. Riding and showing is a way for students to gain skills in horsemanship and horse behavior. More important is the opportunity for them to gain accountability and decision-making experience. I also hope team members will learn hard work is rewarded with success, and learn to be part of a team.
What can small teams and schools do to compete well against larger
schools at IHSA shows?
Ride and practice more. Rutgers came home from Nationals with a few individual placement ribbons in Western classes. They beat riders from the Western powerhouse schools. How did they do it? They took extra riding lessons to prepare for competitions.
You just need the will and belief that you're as good, if not better.
All teams succeed with practice, good instruction, and clinics.
--Michele T. Koury
Small schools can compete! The College of Southern Idaho is only a junior college, but was awarded the Reserve National Team Championship in 2001. One of the team riders is the only ever to win the IHSA Versatility Award two years in a row. The team has only lost two times in the past three years at the regional level; they have been Zone Champions once and Reserve Champions twice when competing against National College Athletics Association sponsored schools. So, yes, smaller schools can do it--especially with the right coach.
Prepare as much as possible, physically and mentally. Because small schools and teams may not be able to afford the flashy clothing that the larger, university or NCAA-sponsored schools can, team members need to ride and perform beyond their best.
Being a coach at a small school, I know that we're competitive. One reason is that we have team unity that just isn't possible with teams of forty to seventy students. Another reason is that we're able to accommodate more practice times because we have fewer riders. The point rider system in IHSA is designed so a small school can have just as much opportunity for success as a large school. If I only have two people in a level, I have a one-in-two chance of picking the rider who will place highest, and therefore score the most points for our team. If a larger school has six riders in a class or level, they have a one-in-six chance of choosing correctly. A school with many competitors is not guaranteed the most points. It's very exciting for me when we beat the larger schools. I don't think the larger schools in our region underestimate us.
Is it true the best Western teams/schools are in the West? Why or why
There are some great Western teams/schools all over the country (such as Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and Florida). I don't think being in the West predetermines success in Western riding.
Schools west of the Mississippi might have an advantage--that's where the history and focus is. Many would say the best English teams come from the East-where fox hunts are part of the culture.
No, that's not true.
--Michele T. Koury
It's possible-after all, it's where the West was won. That's the traditional way of riding to get the job done.
Not all, but many teams in the West and Midwest have done well at the national level most. Schools in the East tend to emphasize hunt seat riding. There are exceptions, however...
I'm not certain that the best Western teams are farther west-there are certainly some competitive schools and individuals nationwide. However, there may be more opportunities to ride Western in the West. That means there may be more students with Western experience attending Western universities. I like to think we're part of one of the most competitive Western regions--and we're located in the West! However, that's a pretty large generality.
If you were choosing a school and wanted to ride Western, how would you
begin your search?
Check out the IHSA Web site and contact some of the regional presidents. They can provide general information about the teams in their region--especially which teams are strong in Western and have top programs. They can also help you get in touch with teams in the region.
Get a list of schools that ride Western, look at different academic programs offered, then visit teams at the schools you've selected. Are the teams happy, or in conflict? What's the team's reputation like? Ask yourself, "Am I going to enjoy myself at this school?" Visit any school you're thinking of attending-never go blind. Make an appointment with a counselor, the coach, and some team members. See if you'll fit in--bothat the school and as part of the team. Remember that showing is supposed to be fun!
Visit the IHSA Web site. It has the competing schools listed. If a team doesn't have a site, email the school's regional president. Make sure to choose a school for education first-then see what the school's team is like. Take care of your needs first.
Go to the IHSA Web site; check out the links to schools. See which schools offer the academic programs you're interested in, and which have competitive Western teams. Contact the schools to find out if they're interested in you. Bigger isn't always better; some of the small schools offer more practice time and more individualized attention than larger schools.
If I were choosing a school to ride Western, I'd look at the past results from IHSA nationals to identify schools that are consistently represented. Select from successful programs, then narrow your list to find a location that's feasible. I always encourage students to visit prospective schools-meet with instructors, talk with students, and get a feel for various campuses. Even if it seems like a good fit on paper, personalities can play a major role in a student's success at college--specifically in a riding program. If you don't get along with a coach, or don't feel comfortable on campus, it's difficult to perform to your potential.
The following schools have recently added Western teams to their equine sports roster. For a complete list of schools with Western teams, check out the December 2002 issue of Horse & Rider.
School / Web site / Phone number
Bucks County Community College, www.bucks.edu, (215) 968-8000
Colgate University, www.colgate.edu, (315) 228-1000
College of the Sequoias, sequoias.cc.ca.us, (559) 730-3700
DeSales University, www.desales.edu , (610) 282-1100
Duquesne University, www.duq.edu, (412) 396-6000
California State University-Fresno, www.csufresno.edu, (559) 278-4240
Georgia State University, www.gsu.edu, (404) 651-2365
Seattle University, www.seattleu.edu, (206) 296-6000
Siena College, www.siena.edu, (518) 783-2300
State University of New York at Cobleskill, www.cobleskill.edu, (518) 255-5525
The University of Georgia, www.uga.edu/, (706) 542-8776
University of Denver, www.du.edu, (303) 871-2000
University of Miami, www.miami.edu, (305) 284-2211
University of Tennessee at Knoxville, www.utk.edu, (865) 974-1000
University of Tennessee at Martin, www.utm.edu, (731) 587.7000
Wake Forest University, www.wfu.edu/, (336) 758-5255
Wesleyan College, www.wesleyan.edu/, (860) 685-2000
For more information on the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, log on to IHSA.com. Individual schools mentioned in this article can be found at the following websites: rutgers.edu, csupomona.edu, wvu.edu, csi.cc.id.us, nmsu.edu, and wtamu.edu.
Evelyn Holland is editorial assistant at Horse & Rider. She is a graduate of Colorado Christian University's English department. Evelyn and husband, Drew, reside in Arvada, Colorado.
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