Western riding teams set up for season

Oilers boast five national titles 

By Larissa Holmes

Those who don’t have their own horses on campus or those who might not be an equestrian student can still find opportunities to ride through the Ranch Horse Team and Western Intercollegiate Horse Show Association team. While both teams specialize in the Western discipline, there are vast differences between the two.

The Ranch Horse Team, unlike English and Western IHSA, is a non-collegiate team and therefore is not associated with the NCAA. Instead, they are associated with the American Ranch Horse Association. According to their website, the ARHA is a national association that promotes and values the true versatile working ranch horse. This also means that the Ranch Horse Team does not compete against other colleges, instead they host their own shows and encourage outside members of ARHA to attend.

“The ideal ranch horse is a horse that can be used on everyday ranch farms,” UF’s Ranch Horse President, Jordan Groenendyk, said.

Events include reining, cutting, showmanship, and roping. Ranch horses are typically more forward than IHSA horses.

The IHSA Western team provides riders with the opportunities to compete individually or as part of a team in competition. There are six levels of Western riding: Reining, Open, Advanced, Novice, Intermediate, and Beginner. Reining consists of spins, fast and slow circles, lead changes, sliding stops, and rollbacks. The other classes ride along the rail at a walk, jog, and lope in both directions except for beginners who only walk and jog.

During shows, riders are assigned horses by random draw and are given no warmup time to get a chance to know their mounts. Riders are then judged on their horsemanship, position, and technique.

“The University of Findlay can boast five National Championship Titles and three reserve National Championships,” Cindy Morehead, the Head Coach of the IHSA Western team, said. “We have 23 Individual National Championships and 18 reserves. More than any other school including The Ohio State University and West Texas.”

Ranch Horse Team tryouts were on Sept. 6 and 7 and riders were selected based on criteria of horsemanship and equitation. A big deciding factor in selecting members is whether the riders showed the potential for improvement and the potential to grow as a rider and teammate. Practices are three times a week, but students are only required to attend two. Members are assigned one horse that they ride and practice with as opposed to IHSA who “catch ride” their horses.

Also different from IHSA, the ARHA is not very big on over-the-top glamour and actually ban excessive use of silver on tack. Glitter and stones are banned from clothing. The attire should be

traditional western wear: button shirts, western hat, jeans, and western boots. Horses are also not to be banded or braided and are to be exhibited naturally without use of tail extensions.

IHSA Western tryouts was Sept. 13, 14, and 15 after an informational meeting used to determine which division potential riders would qualify for. Approximately 90 students tried out for 35 spots on the team. Their first show was Sept. 24.

“It was very competitive,” Morehead said, “We appreciate all that took the time and showed interest in the team.”

Groenendyk, who has been on the Ranch Horse Team for three years, finds the most enjoyable aspect of showing is the comradery gained from spending so much time with her teammates.

“It’s not only exciting to show, but I love cheering on the other riders and helping make them feel relaxed,” Groenendyk said.

Although it is a lot of work competing, Groenendyk says there are a lot of rewards that come from being a part of the team. She says it builds confidence and teaches riders how to compete on a team.

“It’s not just about themselves individually, but about working together with both people and horses to become the well-respected equestrian team they are,” Groenendyk said.

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