"Horses were my passion in college, but I didn't have the financial wherewithal to ride and show then," says Robert Cacchione. Rather than give up on his great love for horses and riding, however, Cacchione channeled his passion into "creating something to make riding affordable for others at the college level," he says.
Today, college and university students around the country are scrubbing tack, brushing horses, saddling up and competing, thanks to the efforts of Cacchione and John Fritz, co-founders of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. The two established the IHSA in 1967 at Fairleigh Dickinson University to provide a vehicle for team competition in riding for anyone, regardless of skill level or economic means.
The University of Findlay is the first college in the history of the National Championship to win both the English (Miller's Collegiate Cup) and Western (AQHA Collegiate Trophy) Team Championships in the same year.
"A relatively level playing field" is the most important aspect of IHSA competition, says Naomi Blumenthal, manager of the 2002 National IHSA Show, hosted by Cazenovia College near Syracuse, N.Y., May 3-5. Blumenthal, director of the equine business management program at Cazenovia as well as an IHSA director, regional president and zone president, says that the IHSA program gives riders of all skill levels the opportunity to compete inexpensively in a team sport.
Students who wish to participate range from beginners mastering the basics of walk-trot to advanced riders used to competing at the top levels of their disciplines. Some students take the opportunity to learn a new skill.
The colleges and universities involved in IHSA provide a riding coach and mounts-school horses either stabled at the schools themselves or provided by nearby riding establishments. Students are not allowed to ride their own horses, use personal tack, or school their mounts before competition. These rules, which insure that all competitors face the same conditions, focus judging exclusively on riding and horsemanship skills.
Competitions offer classes in hunt-seat equitation, equitation over fences, western horsemanship and reining. Host schools provide show mounts, which are assigned to riders by random drawing. Riders earn points as individuals and for their teams, advancing through levels ranging from beginner walk-trot through advanced open equitation competition by accumulating points at IHSA horse shows. The top two individuals from the zone finals compete at the national championships held each May.
In addition to qualifying individual riders for the national show, each school competes to be the high-point college or university representing its respective zone at the national show. This honor is achieved in the same manner as individual competitions. The coach of each team, however, designates a point rider in each division. The point rider competes individually and as a representative of the school as well. As in individual competition, the top team(s) from each zone compete at nationals. The national team champion is awarded the coveted Miller's Cup.
Learn more at www.ihsainc.com