By Jeremiah Jackson and Lauren Rex
The University of Findlay’s equestrian program, as well as its teams, are nationally known. There are multiple equestrian teams at UF. IHSA, Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, has two teams: Western and English.
Elizabeth McKenzie has been on the English IHSA team for five years.
“The program is free for students to join,” McKenzie said. Members only have to participate in a few fundraisers to support the teams. In being on the team, there is at least one lesson a week, as well as two to three mandatory workouts. McKenzie says that for the shows they’ve gone everywhere in Ohio, and they’ve gone out of state as far as Florida to compete.
Winning both days of the season opener of IHSA at Albion University in September was very exciting.
“Now we feel really good going into the rest of the season,” McKenzie said.
Not only did the team take the overall top spot, but both days Findlay riders were high point riders. This means they both had the highest cumulative points from the day. Marianna George, a junior, took high point rider on Saturday, and new Toledo transfer, Abigail Utterback, won high point rider on Sunday.
“We are very lucky to have her (Utterback),” McKenzie said.
Last season was rough for the IHSA team, according to McKenzie. The team pulled through to win the region in the end, but the start of the season was tough. Since the team started off strong this year with a win both days, it now leads the region.
IHSA is based off of a rider’s position, as well as how McKenzie puts it, “our strength and ability to complete a task on horses we’ve never sat on before.”
To prepare for this, the team practices on random horses owned by the University, with lots of conditioning.
“No stirrups, trot sets, getting ourselves fit by going to the gym and doing group workouts,” McKenzie said. “That’s how we prepare not only ourselves, and the horses as well.”
The Findlay herd is used in IHSA home shows, so by putting a variety of riders on the horses also prepares the horses for all draws.
There are a few shows held at Findlay, called home shows. Both Western and English IHSA host home shows. For the English IHSA, the first home show will be in November.
“That’ll be two days straight of us working hard to run a horse show,” McKenzie said. “Because people do not know how much goes into running a show.”
For home shows, the team makes sure all horses look and feel their best, as well as presenting the beautiful facility to other teams.
So much time goes into preparing a horse for a competition, McKenzie says most team members are there by 3:30 a.m. the day of a show.
“The horses have to be bathed, they have to be lunged, and they have to be prepped,” McKenzie said.
Even though IHSA is separate from the Equine Majors offered at Findlay, it is open to anyone who wants to tryout. There are many different levels for riders.
“We have a division entirely for people who have zero riding experience,” McKenzie said. She says the IHSA team will take anybody who’s not afraid and wants to learn how to ride a horse. Anyone is welcome to tryout in the fall.