Give Riding the Old College Try


Cacchione and Ralph Gillis of Centenary College (1978). The following year at the nationals (not shown, 1979), “U.S. Vice President Fritz and Eleanor Mondale’s daughter had qualified in hunt seat, so they flew in on Air Force Two to Mid-Tennessee State University for the show. At a reception the night before, coach Gills had a fatal heart attack, leaving the team without a coach until coaches Jane Flynn (Penn State), George Lukemire (Stony Brook), and Joan Johnson stepped up to help the grieving team while continuing to coach their own teams.” In a true storybook ending, Centenary rallied to win their second consecutive IHSA collegiate cup team title in honor of their late coach.


Cacchione, Stony Brook College coach George Lukemire, and Harry de Leyer (center) in 2000. De Leyer, the trainer made famous by The New York Timesbestsellers and films about the $80 plow horse named Snowman who became his show jumping champion, was just another proud grandfather cheering for one of his 19 grandchildren, who had qualified for the 2000 IHSA Nationals in Georgia.


Bob Cacchione, IHSA Founder


IHSA jumping clinic with Bertalan de Nemethy and USET riders (from left) Dennis Murphy, Buddy Brown, and Robert Ridland, Gladstone, N.J. (1975).


Victor Hugo Vidal judging an IHSA show at Secor Farms (1969). “Early IHSA shows had judges as good as the top shows, because I ringmastered so much that I saw trainers like Victor Hugo Vidal on a regular basis. So all I would do is ask, ‘Will you judge my show?’ and remarkably, they’d say, ‘Yes.’ What I will never forget to appreciate is how every one of these guys, including Victor, gave me a discount on their fees, which was very helpful for IHSA.

Many riders are certain of one thing: they will find a way to continue following their passion for equestrian sports.

The end of high school is a time of transition, decisions, and uncertainty. Most students are understandably overwhelmed by the task of choosing a future, but many riders are certain of one thing: they will find a way to continue following their passion for equestrian sports.

Of course, the college search should focus first on the quality of the education. Endless options can be distilled by asking a few questions before beginning the search; What kind of education am I looking for?

Do I know what kind of career I want? Would I like a big university or do I prefer smaller classes and a tighter community? After answering these basic ques-tions and shortening your potential list, it can be helpful to search online, to speak to collegiate riders, and to find out everything you can about different schools and their equestrian programs. Finally, it is paramount to visit the institutions you select, to meet students, sit in on classes, and to visit with the equestrian team to decide if it is a good fit.

It’s important to remember that riding in college can take any number of forms. There are a wide variety of programs and disciplines available. Some institutions have facilities on campus and others offer riding at barns off-campus. Some colleges emphasize and subsidize their riding programs, and others treat it as a small club sport. Don’t be discouraged if the college of your dreams doesn’t offer exactly the program you might have expected. A small and tight-knit team might offer ben-efits a highly competitive National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) team might not. If the college doesn’t offer the discipline you grew up perfecting, it might be an opportunity to try a new one altogether, perhaps polo or eventing.

An increasing number of programs offer a growing range of options to college riders. The largest option by far, the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) is available at nearly 400 schools nationwide in both Western and hunt-seat divisions ranging from beginner to elite. The NCEA is an affiliate of the NCAA and offers the highest level of varsity competition for Western and hunt-seat riders. A growing number of programs represent other disciplines, including the Intercollegiate Polo Association (IPA), the Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA), and Intercollegiate Eventing Program (IEP).

Because many of these programs offer students the opportunity to ride school-supplied horses, the costs of participating are not nearly as prohibitive as most other equestrian opportunities. With the level playing field created by catch-riding, competitors in intercollegiate riding programs are often required to showcase an even higher level of competence.One of the most valuable and exciting aspects of riding in college is the opportunity for riders to participate as part of a team. Unlike most other types of horseback riding, intercolle-giate team competition is a chance to make lifelong friends, find support, and to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Many student riders find it very rewarding to not only do their best in the ring, but to give leg ups and pep talks that matter just as much.

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