The Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, or IHSA, is helping college students improve their horsemanship skills across the country. The Texas Tech equestrian team just finished up their IHSA western show where members rode horses in two western events classes competing against other riders from different colleges. Texas Tech head coach Katie McArthur said that her team members were competing against nearly 80 other riders.
"Probably about 80, 80-90. They come from all over. There's a team that came from North Central Texas College, there's Redlands Community College that came all the way from Oklahoma, we have Southern Nazarene here, Tarleton is here, West Texas A&M. Our goal is to make them the best horseman that we can, and the great thing about catch riding is that it forces them to adapt to every horse that they get on," McArthur said.
The equestrian team is unique in the fact that students who want to participate don't have to own their own horse or even have to have any previous riding experience. It's about getting dedicated college students involved in a learning opportunity.
"We pretty much welcome all riding levels, any skill level whatsoever, from beginner to very advanced riders," McArthur said. "We do have a walk trot devision all the way up to an open division, so if they've never been on a horse, we are more than accommodating to teach them."
The show included both reining and western horsemanship classes. And even though Sarah Claughton, a sophomore team member was showing in the open reining for the first time, she still managed a second place win.
"The kids will be competing in reining and horsemanship. They draw horses, it's called catch riding, so basically what they do is draw horses basically out of a hat, and they're asked to get on these horses. The horses have been previously warmed up by other individuals, and they pretty much just go in the ring and ride. They don't get any warm up time, they don't get any preparation," McArthur said.
"I rode a horse named CD and she was a little hot, meaning she got excited. She wasn't as calm as in the show pen," Claughton said. "I was kind of nervous myself just because it was my first time being in the open division and in the reining. It's different when you're not on your own horse that you're used to practicing on and you know all their buttons and cues."
Riders are not only competing for themselves, but as a team, too. Claughton said that the team is really like one big family and everyone is there to help their teammates get better at doing what they love.
"The team aspect of showing IHSA is that you're really there for one another for support, and if you catch something that maybe the coaches didn't see or if you kind of have another perspective on how to help someone improve their riding," Claughton said.
"What the riders are judged on is their equitation and their ability to ride a difficult horse. That's the whole point of catch riding I guess," Victoria Smith said. "If you looked awesome on a $30,000 horse, you might not look so awesome on a $900 horse."
Team president and english competitor Victoria Smith said that hosting a show is a great team building activity, too because there's a lot of working together that goes on behind the scenes.
"Preparing for a show that we host is a lot of hard work. We do a lot of preparation months in advance. We got our judges in November, so that's really when we started preparing," Smith said. "We have to get horses donated to the team for the use of the show, we have to make horses lists, we have to make prize lists, we have to get prizes for everyone. In addition we have to get the facility ready. Everyone at the center has been a huge help in getting everything prepared for today."
Both the english and western equestrian teams will travel to several IHSA shows across the country throughout the year. Points they earn as individuals and as a team will help them qualify for the national end of year show, which is another great opportunity for them to positively represent Texas Tech.