April 25, 2008

After a year of accumulating points and advancing through a rigorous series of qualifying shows, several riders from the University of Kentucky’s Equestrian Team have earned the right to compete at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) national championship show May 8-11 in Burbank, Calif.

UK will be represented by its entire hunt seat team as well as two individual stock seat, or western style, riders. Additionally, individual hunt seat rider Callie Schott will be competing in the prestigious Cacchione Cup Championship, a competition reserved for the hunt seat high point rider for each region in the country. Reserve national champion last year, she hopes to take home the title this year.

UK’s hunt seat team will be represented by junior Louise Bowden, senior Sarah Bybee, freshman Ali Cibon, sophomore Allison Davidson, senior Callie Schott and junior Rebecca Wichard. Stock seat individual riders who will be competing at nationals are sophomore Emily Gaskin and alumni rider Lacey Werczynski.

Faculty adviser Bob Coleman said the team’s success is a direct reflection of the hard work and time spent by the team’s two coaches, Michelle Zimmer and Bennie Sargent. The hunt seat team is coached by Zimmer and rides at Robert Murphy Stables. The stock seat team is coached by Sargent and rides at High Point Equestrian Center.

The team relies heavily on fundraising and the generous support of its sponsors to compete, Coleman said, and their support has been instrumental in helping the team be nationally competitive. Sponsors for this year include UK’s Equine Initiative, Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, Hagyard Equine Medical Institute and the Kentucky Equine Education Project. To raise enough money to compete throughout the year, team members also volunteer at Lakeside Arena and Kentucky Horse Park events, the Rolex Three Day Event and at various breed association events.

The UK Equestrian Team, a College of Agriculture club team, has approximately 90 riders who compete in IHSA shows. UK competes in Zone 6, Region 2. Region 2 is made up of Miami University of Ohio, Midway College, Morehead State University, Ohio University Southern, University of Cincinnati, University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, Wilmington College and Xavier University.

Established in 1967, IHSA encompasses 29 regions in nine zones and has more than 300 member colleges in 45 states and Canada, representing more than 6,500 riders in both hunt seat equitation, western horsemanship and reining.

IHSA competitions are unique from the horse shows most people are familiar with. During IHSA shows, a rider draws an unfamiliar horse’s name randomly, and is then judged on his or her ability to ride that horse in equitation and/or jumping classes. There is no warm-up time. This framework was designed to provide a level playing field for college riders and it gives students the opportunity to compete in horse shows without having to own and care for their own horse.