The ANRC – is it for me?

If you’re a prospective intercollegiate equestrian but you haven’t heard of the ANRC before, you aren’t alone.  Despite its 34 year history and the plethora of colleges and universities that participate in this form of intercollegiate horsemanship competition, it still hasn’t risen to the status level that NCEA equestrian (formerly NCAA equestrian) and the IHSA have.  This is slightly perplexing; after all, the ANRC is a team sport (like the other two) and focuses on good horsemanship and good sportsmanship (like the other two).  But somehow it just hasn’t gained the notoriety that have accompanied the two most popular college equestrian “leagues” – perhaps in part due to its slightly more specialized nature.

Sculpture, owned by Savannah College of Art & Design, was a longtime ace in the hole for their riders at the ANRC national championships.
Sculpture, owned by Savannah College of Art & Design, was a longtime ace in the hole for their riders at the ANRC national championships.  (Photo courtesy of ANRC.)

I really gained my grasp of the interworkings of the ANRC through my conversation with Sweet Briar College equestrian director Mimi Wroten at the College Preparatory Invitational Horse Show in Wellington, Florida last month.  I’d long been told that, if I wanted to truly understand the format of the competitions – as well as the many benefits for students who participate in them – that Mimi was the one to talk to and she didn’t disappoint.

The letters ANRC stand for the “American National Riding Commission.”  Established in 1936 and affiliated with both the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) and the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), the mission of the organization (according to their web site) is to “promote the American System of Forward Riding.  This system is based on the idea that the rider’s position or seat, control, and schooling of the horse are integral parts. The training objectives seek to develop the horse’s agility and strength under the weight of the rider, and achieve balance of the horse independently of the rider’s aids. Emphasis is placed on the rider’s ability to achieve a cooperative performance, allowing the horse to move forward freely with connected movement, while remaining calm and alert.”

In short, the ANRC hopes to educate college equestrians to become the best hunter/jumper horsemen and women that they can be through education, training, and competition.  As such, the program features a rating and ranking system that begins at a low elementary level and proceeds up through advanced.  Further, the program doesn’t merely focus on sheer riding skills, but also incorporates the horsemanship elements of appropriate tack and attire, warm up  and cool down routines, and training plans that focus first and foremost on the welfare of the horse.  In fact, riders at the intercollegiate national championship for the ANRC are scored on their performances in four distinctive areas: a program ride (which features the USEF hunter equitation tests), completion of a derby course of natural jumps set at three feet, a hunter seat equitation medal course set also at three feet, and a written test focused on riding theory and stable management.  (One new element coming up the pipeline is a separate division of the ANRC championships for less experienced riders, which will feature jumps set at two foot six inches and modified flat and written tests so that students can begin competing in the organization sooner and work their way up to the higher division.)

One final distinction that the ANRC national championship has over its other intercollegiate counterparts is that of being the only one where students must compete aboard familiar mounts – whether borrowed from their college or university or owned by the students themselves.  This difference highlights the “whole horse” education that is stressed throughout all sections of ANRC teaching, in that it creates a forum for students to forge a solid relationship with their equine partners and use the teachings of the organization to continually improve and enhance their training as a team.

Riding on a traditional hunter course - in an open hunt field! - is one of the hallmarks of ANRC competition, as demonstrated by this Goucher rider at the 2012 championship show.
Riding on a traditional hunter course – in an open hunt field! – is one of the hallmarks of ANRC competition, as demonstrated by this Goucher rider at the 2012 championship show.

(Note:  Collegiate invitational shows in the ANRC still run on a draw system similar to IHSA and NCEA, though horsemanship is still stressed through mandatory timed warm up and cool down phases for each rider with their drawn horse.  These type of competitions are hosted fairly infrequently, however, due to the number of highly trained horses it requires for each participating school.)

So if you’re a student exploring your college riding options and you want to do something a little more focused on the horsemanship aspects of equestrianism, not just the riding portion, then perhaps finding a school that participates in the ANRC is just what you’re looking for.  (Aspiring professionals in the hunter/jumper ranks, this is a program that’s tailor made for you!)

And (as always!), if you want help to decide what your best college and college riding options are, contact me.

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