Horses are a Part of the Team at University of Findlay
BY NATASHA LANCASTER ’18, M’19
When you think of sports, what comes to mind? Football? Volleyball? Basketball?
Among many things, the University of Findlay is known for its Animal Science and Equestrian Programs, featuring top-notch facilities, state of the art equipment, knowledgeable faculty, and – you guessed it – elite sports teams that include some equally unique equine teammates.
Both the University’s English and Western Equestrian Programs have the opportunity to compete nationally as a UF Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) team member. Students on the team learn about time management, effective communication, developing a strong work ethic, proper horsemanship techniques, and how to be successful riders who produce winning rides both as a team and individually.
The team pairs nicely with both of the equestrian programs, while also drawing in enthusiastic students from all educational backgrounds. Meri Marsh, director of equestrian studies and equine management, explained that “at UF, any student, whether they are involved in the academic Equestrian Program or not, can try out for a spot on the team.” With no previous riding experience required, these teams are for anyone who loves horses, and is dedicated to improving their skills as a rider.
With over 10,000 student members from more than 400 colleges and universities across the United States and Canada, IHSA welcomes beginners through advanced riders in the English and Western disciplines. IHSA also offers a large variety of competitive “classes” including hunt seat, western horsemanship, reining, and ranch riding.
At competitions, once riders are paired with their equine counterpart, they only have a few minutes to get to know each other before heading into the show pen. Riders compete by riding a specific pattern or showing on the rail (when the horse and rider are going around the arena next to the wall or fence – called the rail, in this case), depending on the type of class.
Over the show season, contestants accumulate points for their placings, both as individuals and teams, to qualify for larger shows. Winning teams move on to Regional Finals, then Zone Finals. The high-point teams in the Zone Finals head to the National Championship to represent their zone with the chance to win the Collegiate Cup in the hunter seat division, and the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Trophy in the Western division.
UF’s well-known and highly competitive hunt seat and western teams have combined to win eight national titles – the western team won back-to-back national titles in 2018 and 2019 – and have included many individual student and reserve champions.
So, what leads to this success? According to Marsh, a few different factors. “The University’s coaching staff consists of some of the best equestrian coaches in the industry,” she said. “The UF horse herd used for IHSA practice and competition is arguably one of the best school horse herds in the country. Our horses are often requested to be used by other horse schools and have earned several horse-of-the-year titles.”
Attention to detail, problem solving, and building confidence all play a huge part in being successful both on the IHSA team and well beyond. For those who are aspiring to be a professional in the equine industry, the experience gained in practice and showing sets an excellent foundation for future success.