The University of Kentucky’s Equestrian Team will host its first western division competition since the re-establishment of the team in 1985 at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2, at Fiddlers Run Equine Facility in Versailles.
“This is huge and we’re thrilled to be hosting and competing in our own show,” said Kate Griffith, the western team’s former vice-president and one of the event’s organizers.
Preparing for the show has been a big task for the team. In addition to polishing their riding skills and making up for the practice time they lost during the holiday break, team members also participated in fundraising, event planning and securing the donation of horses for the show. Competitors ride horses donated to the host university.
Show organizers are expecting nearly 90 competitors from five different universities. With this many students expected UK has worked hard to ensure that it has enough horses for the duration of the show. Currently, it predicts 25 to 30 horses will be used, with most of those being generously provided by horse professionals in the area. Having enough horses is vital. During a typical horse show one rider might ride as many as four different horses and one horse could carry around as many as 10 different riders.
Collegiate competitions are unique from the horse shows most people are familiar with. During collegiate shows, a rider draws an unfamiliar horse’s name randomly, and is then judged on his or her skills in riding that horse. There is no warm up time. This framework was designed to provide a level playing field for college riders and gives students the opportunity to compete in horse shows without having to have and care for their own horse.
In addition to the hard work done by team members, there is also a lot of work that has been done by the team’s advisor and coach. Team advisor Bob Coleman, who is also Director of Undergraduate Studies for UK’s new equine science and management degree program, and UK western coach, Bennie Sargent, who was also just named the American Quarter Horse Association Professional Horseman of the Year, both assisted the team in decision making and planning for the upcoming show.
Fundraising is done year round by the team members volunteering at horse shows in Versailles, Frankfort, the Kentucky Horse Park and the Rolex Three Day Event in April. Selling t-shirts, hosting silent auctions and receiving donations from organizations, including the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP) and Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, are also ways that the team pays for the two horse shows it will host this year. The English team will be hosting a show in March. Funds raised will also go to help riders pay for regional, zone and national level competition expenses.
“The support from the local horse industry for equine programs at UK is tremendous,” Coleman said. “We wouldn’t be able to successfully host a show of this caliber without their assistance.”
Riders from UK will compete in classes ranging from Beginner Walk-Trot to Open Horsemanship and Open Reining (the most advanced categories). Each team is on a hunt for points and will compete to earn enough to qualify for March’s regional competition. After reaching regionals, riders will have a chance to compete at zone and national competitions against schools from across the country.
Both UK’s English and western teams competed in four shows last fall and were very successful. They are optimistic their success will continue and earn them even more exciting results this spring.
For information on attending the horse show, joining the team or becoming a sponsor, please contact UK Equestrian Team Western Vice President Christi Burrington, 734-347-6732, or team adviser Bob Coleman, 859-257-2226.