As an equine major, there is a very large chance that you will end up spending a handful of weekends running, working, or showing in any of the multiple horse shows that The University of Findlay puts on each semester. We participate in both the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, showing hunt seat equitation, as well as the Intercollegiate Dressage Association. As I write this post, in fact, the last regular season dressage show is going on at the barn, as riders from universities around our region compete on our horses from Intro to First Level, working their way to Regionals – and hopefully, the chance to compete for a national title later in the semester.
The difference between regular horse showing and that of the intercollegiate organizations lies in the method of judging. As the IHSA is an equitation-based organization, and riders are effectively catch-riding the horses that they show, not being able to touch the reins of the horse until they enter the ring for their class, the judge is looking for correctness in the rider’s position rather than stressing the placement of the horse’s head or overall look of the mount. IDA has more collective marks for the equitation of the rider as well, however, the rider receives 10 minutes to warm up the horse that they are going to show before entering the ring, rather than simply jumping on the horse and entering the ring like you do in IHSA.
UF has a great tradition of excelling in both IHSA and IDA, with numerous national, regional, and zone titles won by riders in both the English and Western programs. Riders on the team are incredibly well-prepared, with multiple practices a week on top of their daily barn duties and riding schedules (for riders in the program, that is, but you don’t need to be in the equine program to try out for the team). One of the things about the collegiate showing system that I like is that riders have the ability to point up out of the level in which they start their collegiate show career; I think this gives great incentive to continue to improve, and allows riders entering on a flat-only level, lower jumping level, or lower dressage level to work their way up and be faced with new showing experiences and challenges as a rider. The programs also don’t require you to have any previous show experience, but riders emerge from the team seasoned pros, knowing exactly how to enter a class, demand the judge’s attention, and leave behind a great impression.
Also, a definite highlight of hosting shows is that the judges are sometimes are able to stay an extra day and run clinics with any interested riders. I was able to ride with Ron Danta earlier this year, in an equitation clinic, the day after he arrived to judge our show. Tomorrow, the IDA judge is running a day of clinics that all the dressage students get to participate in. So we get extra fine tuning by professionals who are active and respected in the horse industry, and we get an insider’s look into what judges are really looking for.
Want to try out in the fall? Go ahead! IDA and IHSA take riders of all levels, no matter the major!
Questions about the process? Comment below!