Not only is your school’s equestrian team a great way to keep riding during college, but you can also meet and spend time with fellow riders! In this blog, RW crew member Ivy offers her experiences about what it’s like to compete on an IHSA team.
When I moved to the beautiful town of San Luis Obispo for college, I made the goal to join the Hunt Seat team at Cal Poly. The Cal Poly Equestrian Team is a club sport operating on Cal Poly’s campus under the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA). Even though I made an equestrian team at my high school, which was much like any other league or association where you bring your own horse and compete in your choice of division, IHSA is a whole other ball game.
What is ISHA?
In IHSA riders travel to different schools in the area to compete and ride the horses that the hosting school provides. At each show, there are nine different classes that correspond to five divisions. There’s Open, which is the highest-level class jumping 3’, Intermediate which jumps 2’6, and Limit jumps 2’. There is also walk/trot/canter and beginner walk/trot classes.
Before trying out for the team, you are required to take a placement test on the IHSA website. After inputting your show records, the placement test gives you the division you will compete in. Once you make it on the team you get to do some traveling! Our region has shows hosted by Stanford, UC Santa Cruz, and UC Berkeley. The schools that don’t host do their part by trailering in horses to help out.
ISHA chooses the division you will compete in based on your show record.
At each show, those who are jumping start with a course-walk. Afterward are warm-ups, where you watch all of the horses to see how they go. When it’s time for the show to finally begin, each class will have their turn to go to the draw table and find out which horse they are riding. At the draw table, riders line up tallest to shortest and grab a ping pong ball that has a number on it out of a hat. That number corresponds to the horse you will be riding in your class. While the home school has a definite advantage, after showing a few times you get to know some of the horses. Each day of the show has a different judge so if you aren’t doing great the first day, you have the next day to redeem yourself.
Off to Nationals!
When I got on the show team at Cal Poly 4 years ago, I was placed into 2B which is advanced walk/trot/canter. I did not go to any “A” rated shows in middle school or high school, only local shows, so I was qualified for a flat only class. After my second year showing I was able to acquire enough points to point out of that division and send me straight to zones. If there are more than two people that point out in their division, there must be a regional qualifier class to decide on the top two riders. After competing against my division for zones, I placed second and got to go to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania a month later to compete at Nationals.
Ivy qualified for the IHSA National Championship and was able to travel to Pennsylvania to compete.
It was a surreal experience competing in a national show! I went with one other teammate who pointed out of Intermediate fences and our awesome coach. Unfortunately, I came down with strep throat a few days before I had to fly across the country, so I wasn't feeling all that great. I competed against other riders from schools such as Centenary University, SCAD, Cornell, Colorado State, and so many others. When it came time for my class to show, I rode a chunky grey warmblood from Penn State. Each Zone sends their top 2 two riders, so I was one of 18 college kids that got to compete. I ended up finishing the class 11th in the Nation.
From then on, I competed in Novice Flat and eventually I was able to point into Intermediate Flat. My regional class for Novice Flat didn't go as well as the year prior, so I wasn’t able to attend nationals. However, being able to move up from 2B to the second-highest division in the show was a monumental accomplishment for me.
After her success in Novice Flat, Ivy moved into the Intermediate Flat class.
Join the Fun
Each school year there are four weekends that riders get to compete and earn points. The shows are spread out so that there are two weekends in fall and two weekends after the new year. Recently, showing in college has also included the California Collegiate Equestrian Finals (CCEF). Here they take the top riders from each division but only from California schools. This usually takes place on the same day as zones and is judged much like a normal IHSA show. CCEF gives riders another chance to compete against their California compatriots.
If you get the chance to try out for your school's equestrian team, I highly recommend it. The Equestrian Team is such a fun atmosphere where you meet people from different majors with the same love for horses. Catch-riding, like what is done in IHSA, really tests your ability as a rider. You need to be able to understand a horse’s gait and temperament just by watching them warmup with another rider.
IHSA allows you to spend time with other riders while in college!
At any horse show it is important to look your best and I can always count on Riding Warehouse to make sure my teammates and I are riding in style! Some of my favorite products we sell are:
- GPA EVO 2X Riding Helmet
- Dreamers & Schemers Tall Boot Socks
- Roeckl Roeck-Grip Gloves
- RWR No-Knot Hairnet