Nearly every conversation I ever have with a high school student who has an interest in riding on an intercollegiate equestrian team includes the same basic information – information that I’ve boiled down into a quick list of the four things that every prospective intercollegiate equestrian needs to know.
The beauty of this list? It’s short. It’s straightforward. It’s basic.
What’s more, the information isn’t limited in its scope; it applies to the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA), as well as the NCEA (formerly NCAA) equestrian, the Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA), and the American National Riding Commission (ANRC). It isn’t limited by school either; you can apply these points to every college and university in the United States (and some in Canada!) that participate in organized team equestrian competition.
Summary: All of the bases for intercollegiate equestrian are covered.
Here’s what you need to know:
- You do not need to own (or lease) a horse in order to compete on an intercollegiate equestrian team. Because IHSA, NCEA, and IDA are all based on the draw system, whereby the host school provides a pool of horses from which competitive riders draw their mounts, team riders don’t need to take anything to shows with them besides their show clothes. In the ANRC, riders do take horses with them, but many of them come right from their own college or university’s school horse herd.
- You do not have to bring your own horse with you to school in order to have a fulfilling collegiate equestrian experience. Many riders can’t afford to attend college and take their horse with them – which is how the IHSA and its brethren were started in the first place. The structure of intercollegiate teams gives students access to a variety of horses so you as a rider can have ample opportunities to pursue your in-the-saddle goals without all of the financial burden and time commitment of taking care of your own horse.
- You do not need prior competition (or even riding!) experience to ride in college. Nearly every college with its own equestrian team and/or program has ample spaces for the greenest beginner to get their feet wet in equestrian sports as a college student. In fact, the IHSA and IDA have divisions that are specifically for beginner riders – and those are often the slots that coaches struggle the most to fill! So if you’ve never ridden a horse or never competed in a show, seize college as your opportunity to try it!
- The best thing that any intercollegiate equestrian athlete can possess is a great attitude! No matter what your riding background, your competitive show record, or your particular skill set in the saddle, if you approach your collegiate riding career with a positive, upbeat attitude and you’re willing to try new things, have fun, and make friends for a lifetime, you’ll go much farther than the rider who limits him or herself in terms of what that student hopes his or her riding becomes at the college level. With a great attitude, you’ll make the most of your four years – and you might even surprise yourself at the direction your riding takes you!
See? I said I’d keep it short and simple – especially because, once you demystify the intercollegiate riding systems, it really is easy to understand. (But not to worry – if you want help walking through the process, I’m happy to do so. Just let me know.)