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College Equestrian Team Questions

Hello everyone! As an upcoming senior in high school, the search for a college is very stressful! I am only interested in a college if I can ride on a team ISHA or NCAA. Unfortunately, over fences in NCAA is 3’6’’ which I am no where near competing. Is it possible to be recruited as a flat only rider? Also, I am interested in University of Kentucky and Centenary College. Any experience with either of these programs? Which colleges would you all recommend? Thank you in advance everyone!

You should choose a college that is right for you and your major. NCAA is mainly for very accomplished equitation riders who have extensive show records at 3’6". But ISHA has all levels and that would be a good option for you.

Choose the right school and then if all is well academically look into riding. Go to the IHSA team websites for each school to learn about their teams and try outs. You can go here to learn more about the association:


Good luck!

Agree with above post. I have never done IHSA (I’m wayyyy too old), but the barn where I ride has a team, and they always need beginner and novice riders. That’s the beauty of IHSA–the walk-trot wins count as much as the open wins. As you’re looking, check out whether the IHSA team is a varsity or a club sport. If it’s a club sport, the college doesn’t support it financially, and you’ll have to pay the fees yourself. I also agree with carroal that your absolute first priority in choosing a college should be whether or not it’s a good fit for you academically, socially, and financially. Riding is a bonus.

Neither of the schools you mentioned have NCAA teams, as far as I know, only IHSA teams. IHSA is going to be a better fit for you (and don’t listen to people who tell you that NCAA is better than IHSA, they’re totally different when it comes to rules and judging, so not really comparable). You have all levels in IHSA, from people just starting out to Medal/Maclay riders showing in Open.

Choose a school based on the academics, not on the riding.

First and foremost, as the others said, choose a school that is the right fit for you with classes, major, and way of life. At the end of the day, you are at college to learn!!!
THEN look at colleges with riding programs.

I am a novice rider in IHSA for SCAD. (#1 in our region right now woot woot!) I love it so much. IHSA is going to be a great fit for you riding wise, as you will start where your show record lies. If you have not competed in a rated show with USEF, then you will be just a flat rider. If you have, you’ll be in Novice. If you’ve won over 6 first place ribbons over 3’, you’ll be at intermediate.

The best part about college riding is that it focuses on you. You become a better rider because it is equitation based and equitation based only. I have loved my short time on the team already, and am so happy I chose to tryout.
Let me know if you have any specific questions about IHSA or team stuff!

If I knew what you wanted to major in I would be quick to suggest my alma mater! But, regardless of horses, you should pick a school that will be best for you in the long run even if that means riding in a club instead of a team.

Honest advice. If you’re not at a level where you’ll be recruited for NCAA and get scholarship money for it, then for the love of Pete choose a school for the academics/your major. Then figure out the riding part after you determine what school you’ll attend. College is too much money and too much of an investment in your future to choose one based on the riding team.

You can always find places to ride at school, even if they don’t have a team. Don’t shortchange your future for the short term.

Choose a school that has the major you want that is a good fit for you academically. As a secondary consideration, think about places you might like to live for your career and consider schools in that region.

If they have an IHSA team with terrific horses and a great coach, awesome, but if not, they surely have a wonderful barn nearby where you can ride and learn with many excellent horsepeople out in the community.

The major and university you choose will launch you into a career that will determine how and whether you can keep horses for the decades of the rest of your life. Better to have 30 years of great horse-compatible career where you can choose your riding path than four years of college equestrian team.

I’m going to echo everyone else and say IHSA is what will be best for you. From strictly a riding team standpoint, Centenary is a really great school with great horses and facilities. I’m a Cazenovia alum, but I always enjoyed showing at Centenary.

I will also echo that you should find the place that fits you best academically first. THAT is why you are going to college…not to ride but to further your academic education. There are plenty of cheaper places to get riding experience (ie. working student positions) without having to pay for college-level tuition.

I am a University of Kentucky alumni, so I can of help you out!

First off, I have to stay real with you. Within the past few years the number of riders trying out was nearing 100+. The barn could simply not support a team that big, and they have cut the number of students who made the team drastically. I believe last year there were 36 members? So just because you enroll to UK, does not mean you will be on the team.

Your selling point would be if you could be a WTC rider! If you’re okay with only flatting (and qualify for that division)- you are well sought after! Believe me, you learn enough in lessons and will be jumping around a bit.

Their school horses were great, busier barn atmosphere. I have not ridden under the new coach Diana Conlon, I believe she “subbed” a few lessons in the early years when I was on the team. But UK is doing fantastic and has one of the more competitive IHSA teams in the country.

I have to say though- being submersed in the horse community of Lexington was a huge draw for me. Say you dont make the team- there are SO MANY other equine related opportunities in the area that you may not be able to find- by say Centenary. You really get a feel for the entire equine industry, from the hunter/jumper world, eventing, TB & SB racing, TB breeding, the top-notch equine hospitals (Rood & Riddle, Hagyard, etc). So keep that in mind when you’re choosing your school!

Send me a PM if you have any specific questions and I hope I can help.

Yep–definitely chose a school based on the campus/curriculum/student body rather than the riding team. You will inevitably spend upwards of 90% of your time on campus, in class, socializing with friends, and studying, not riding. Make that a priority and you’ll ultimately enjoy your college experience much more.

With that said, I’m currently a junior in college and rode on the equestrian team freshman year. I’m at a big D1 SEC school, and I have a few complaints about the program here that I recommend you look out for when school hunting.

Our program was still in its grassroots stage, as it had only been in existence for about three years when I joined. It was a club team, which, as others have said, meant riders themselves were responsible for all costs inferred during the shows, etc. It was not cheap. Additionally, we were only allowed to ride during our one hour weekly lesson, unless we wanted to pay $15 a day to go walk on a trail. We also only had two shows the entire semester, and the show format was awful. The host school provided the mounts, and each rider was placed on a horse through a random lottery. And these horses were the kind of horses you’d expect someone to donate to a school for free. I’m 5’7", and at one show I got placed on a 13h pony with, I kid you not, one eye. And they hadn’t even bothered to sew up the empty eye socket. Also, the IHSA format requires riders to have a certain number of points before you could enter a higher class. I only showed local shows in high school, and while I was very capable of riding a 3’ course, I was stuck doing w/t and w/t/c flat classes with complete novices. (2’-3’6" over fences classes were also offered, if I recall correctly.) Riding once a week and trotting a half dead pony around a ring twice a semester wasn’t worth it for me.

That said, going to the shows was a blast. The team had a great time traveling together. However, we took our weekly lessons in pairs, so the only time I got to see the entire team was during the two shows.

So here’s what I would do, if I were you:
Look online at a college’s list of club teams and find contact info for the riding team. Shoot them an email expressing interest in riding for them–they’ll be more than happy to give you information. Ask what barn they’re based at, how often they get to ride, and what horses they’re put on. Ask how often shows are and get details on the show format. (Expect it to be similar to what I said–that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad! In my case, the annoying point limitation was just the last straw.) Ask them if the team does any regular bonding activities: weekly dinners, etc. You want the most serious, “team-like” program you can find. It will be the most satisfying.

As for NCAA teams–they are a big deal. A girl at my high school rides for Auburn, but she had two $70,000 horses in high school and showed all over the country. Unless that sounds like you, I’d lean toward IHSA. :stuck_out_tongue: There was no shortage of talent on my team. Most of these ladies were experienced in the show ring and had been riding since birth. Don’t worry that a club team won’t be a challenge.

Good luck with it all! Do your research and you’ll find the right school for you. College is a blast.

P.S. I apologize for any grammar mistakes–not proofreading, I need to put my phone down and pay attention to the professor. :wink:

Centenary is one of the best IHSA programs in the nation. They are pretty much always top 5 as a team at Nationals. My trainer went there and rode on the team. She loved it. She’s said that it’s a very cutthroat environment however – there are limited “point rider” spots and it can get very competitive. That being said, she also said that basically all 80 of the team members got to compete at every horse show, which is a LOT more than I can say for my IHSA team here in Oregon.

Still, you’ll want to make sure that the COLLEGE is right for you first. Centenary is a very different experience from Kentucky. Different places, different feels, different academic strengths. The nice thing about IHSA is that it almost doesn’t matter what the team is like – as long as there’s a team to join, you can excel as an individual rider and go to nationals even if your whole team sucks lol.

I’m going to agree with everyone else’s advice too! There are so many colleges with IHSA teams nowadays that hopefully you can find one the right size and in the part of the country that is the best fit for you.

I made the mistake of choosing a college far away, 100% based on riding. They had one of the best IHSA teams in the country (this was back in the 1990s) and that was pretty much all my 17-year-old mind cared about! I should have taken the time to learn that a lot of students went home on weekends and the school was really too small for my liking. My parents tried so hard to reason with me, but I thought riding was most important.

Within a few months, I realized that the great equestrian team wasn’t enough to outweigh the negative things (limited class offerings, no football games, culture shock!). When my parents took me on College Hunt Round 2 to transfer, my mom kept reminding me to look at each college as if they didn’t have an IHSA team, or if I didn’t make the team. Would I still want to be there?

I transferred my sophomore year back to NC and joined the IHSA team there. We weren’t the best in the country, or even in our zone or region, but it didn’t matter. I was happier with the entire college experience, and in retrospect, that was the most important thing. And as someone said above, you can always qualify for regionals/zones/nationals as an individual even if your team does not.

You have the rest of your life to ride (I still compete in the IHSA Alumni division, in fact!), but the college you choose is more time-sensitive and your career depends on it. You may change your mind about your intended major and career (I did, at least once or twice), so it’s good to look for colleges that offer a wide variety of academic programs. Most importantly, make sure you like the college itself!

ETA: I forgot to mention that I visited Centenary on my initial college search, and I noticed a very competitive vibe among the team members as described above. They had very nice horses, though!

Clemson has an awesome team as well, so does FSU, Florida State… many down here actually.
And of course my beloved SCAD <3

But the above advice is golden - choose the school you’ll be happy at if you DONT make the team. I didn’t make team my first quarter here at SCAD, but my time here was still amazing and I loved being at the school.

:yes::yes: This is awesome advice and worth repeating! I love my IHSA team to death. I would be very very upset if something happened that I couldn’t ride on the team but I would still be happy with my college choice. It’s just the icing on the cake of a good school for me :slight_smile:

I rode on an IHSA team for 3 out of 4 years of my undergrad. I would be more than happy to talk about my experience with you if you’d like. Just PM me :slight_smile:

Overall, it was… interesting… You never know what you are going to draw on the day of the show (I was Novice Fences most often and the W/T, W/T/C horses tend to be able to take a joke better).

Just found this thread! And thankful for it because I’m going to Cazenovia College next year and wanted to try out for the team.

I’ve been hearing a lot about the NCAA getting rid of Equestrian as a sport for lack of college participants, which is almost funny considering there is over 100 IHSA teams. (All the colleges I applied to besides one has an IHSA team).

Any advice for trying out for the teams?

I would definitely recommend IHSA too, especially since NCAA equestrian has been recommended for removal and probably won’t be around much longer. IHSA is a lot less intense and probably more fun! NCAA equestrians have to travel a TON which makes being a normal college kid difficult! IHSA is definitely less of a commitment.

I don’t know much about UK or anything, but if you’re looking for schools in Ohio OSU has a great non-cut team and Ohio University has a very good team (go to nationals every year I believe) with an awesome facility with dozens of horses to ride. I’m pretty sure they don’t cut either! And you can do flat only if you want.

Also look into the level of commitment of some of the teams! My friend’s sister goes to Lake Erie College, who is known for having a really good equestrian team, but she had to practice like 5 days a week and go to every show even if she wasn’t competing. She ended up hating it and quit, even though she was a talented rider. So make sure you actually like the team you’re trying out for and know what you’re getting into!

Just found this thread! And thankful for it because I’m going to Cazenovia College next year and wanted to try out for the team.

I’ve been hearing a lot about the NCAA getting rid of Equestrian as a sport for lack of college participants, which is almost funny considering there is over 100 IHSA teams. (All the colleges I applied to besides one has an IHSA team).

Any advice for trying out for the teams?[/QUOTE]

Be polite and respectful, pay attention, praise your horse, try your best and have fun. Be happy to help if asked. Dress neatly - collared shirt tucked in, clean breeches, clean tall boots, hair in a hairnet. If you’re not used to riding a bunch of different types of horses, see if you can get on others from your barn. Caz is a good school and I wish you luck!

When I see threads like this, I cringe. Where is your guidance counselor?

You’ve got your priorities backwards. What do you want to be when you grow up? Where do you want to live? What are your academic strengths/weaknesses? What can you afford? Those are the sorts of considerations that should play into choosing a college.

The fact that anyone would choose a college exclusively based on the equestrian team is terrifying to me. If you’re that serious about riding, go be a working student in Europe. If you are in college to get an education, pick the college based on its ability to give you the education you want. If you just want to ride and spend $20,000-30,000/year and you’ve got the cash-- just show and forget college.

Riding on a college equestrian team can be fun. I did it. I’m not discouraging you from doing it. But 5, 10, 15, 20 years from now… your education can dictate where you are in life. Having ridden IHSA won’t matter much, if any. If you’re not a big eq rider, you’re not getting recruited/scholarship. Even for IHSA walk/trot. The scholarships are for the big eq girls at the competitive schools. If you’re an average rider, you might not even make a competitive IHSA team. You might not even LIKE riding IHSA.

Pick the school with the major/program/educational opportunities you want and then try out and ride if you make it. If not, ride somewhere else. Life’s too short and education is too expensive and important to make decisions based on equestrian teams.