5 Ways IHSA Can Change Your College Experience

Story and Photos by Kaleigh Collett, WIHS Intern

As my first season in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Associate (IHSA) comes to a close, I am spending my time reflecting on my first year as a member of the University of Maryland Equestrian Team (UMET).   It was a truly amazing experience. I would highly recommend joining your university’s team to any current or prospective college equestrian.

Members of the University of Maryland Equestrian Team stand outside of Oatland Stables with their ribbons from the Zone 4 Region 1 Finals.

I have learned so much about myself and my riding in this short period of time.  Here are just a few ways IHSA has shaped my college experience:

  • Leadership: It has inspired me to become a leader by accepting the position as Public Relations Chair for the team.
  • Improved Riding: It has made me a more versatile, functional equestrian by riding different horses every week in lessons and shows.
  • Lifelong Friendships: I forged friendships with fellow passionate horsewomen that I see lasting a lifetime.
  • Quality Horses: I got the opportunity to ride quality show horses, which I may never have been exposed to otherwise.
  • Professional Opportunities: It has opened several doors to professional opportunities, including my internship at WIHS.

Kaleigh (me) (back, left) and other WIHS Intern Olivia Airhart (back, right) assisting with the autograph signing with the 2018 WEG Gold Medal Show Jumping Team at the WIHS 2018.

Special IHSA Event this Friday!
This Friday, April 26, the IHSA is holding their Inaugural Metropolitan Equitation Invitational at the Longines Masters of New York.  The event will have a flat and an over fences component and will be judged by legendary horseman George Morris.  The top open division riders from around the nation will showcase their skills in the hopes of winning this brand new invitational. 

IHSA was founded in 1967 with the mission of giving college equestrians the opportunity to show regardless of gender, riding experience or financial status. The league has 10,000 members from more than 400 schools that compete in divisions ranging from walk/trot for the new rider, novice for those who have shown on local circuits, and finally open for riders with successful USEF show records. 

Regular season shows are hosted by local schools, and participating competitors are assigned horses to ride from the hosting barn through a lottery draw system.  This type of riding, termed “catch riding,” is one of the most difficult parts of IHSA showing.  I find that the format allows for a more even playing field between competitors and makes me a more adjustable rider. 

 IHSA Regional Final ribbons await the results of the upcoming show day.

In March, my team hosted the Zone 4 Region 1 Finals at our home barn, Oatland Stables, in Gaithersburg, MD. I did not accumulate enough points to ride in the regional finals, so my job was to photograph the day’s events, as well as the ten members of UMET who did qualify to compete.  “It has been a great season for the team, with a record ten riders qualifying for 11 classes at regionals,” said Brianna Mentle, team president and junior at UMD.  “Our members really stepped up to the plate when it came to both riding and hosting the show.

Under the careful direction of our coach, Astrid Dalley, who also heads the American University Equestrian Team, my teammates fought hard against stiff competition.  Several finished third in their respective divisions, falling just one place short of moving on to IHSA Zone 4 Finals.

“Our girls all rode their hearts out.  We will take what we learned and start to prepare for next year,” said Dalley.

While the results of the regional finals meant our season was over, we kept our spirits high.  Sophomore Carley Gray, a former WIHS Intern, said that the show was “a great way to gage how far everyone had come throughout the semester and everyone really put in the work, regardless of the final placings.”  When asked about the IHSA catch riding format, Gray said “(I) love the challenge of trying to figure out the horse within the first minute in the ring.  My (regional) Open Flat draw, Harley, was very adjustable, allowing me to have a quiet hand and leg throughout my ride.”

Learn More About IHSA!

Regional Horse of the Year, Twister, poses for the camera.

The highlight of the day was when our beloved school horse, Twister, won Regional Horse of the Year, a title bestowed upon one horse in each region that exemplifies the ideal IHSA horse..  Twister is owned by Whitney Lind, who trains with Rachel Kennedy of ESP Farm, and was shown consistently in the 1.10 meter Amateur Owner jumpers. He was donated to Oatland Stables upon his retirement and quickly became a barn favorite among Dalley’s college riders!

Looking back on this year, I can full-heartedly say that this team has been the highlight of my college experience thus far.  UMET has allowed me to grow as a rider and a leader, while making life-long friendships with my amazing teammates.  I look towards my senior season with gratitude for all that IHSA has given me, even in this short amount of time, and excitement for everything I still have to learn.