My (somewhat) unpopular opinion about IHSA / Catch-Riding Circuits...

I think these circuits get a lot of heat on COTH for the negative experiences that many have had while participating in them. A lot of this critique is deserved. I would like to express a different side.

My region has the most supportive, friendly people who are a pleasure to be around and share a laugh with. It’s competitive, but not cut throat. Fun, but dedicated. Just an overall great network of people that enjoy being around horses (but cannot really afford it in their early twenties).

Horses can be hit and miss, but they all teach you something. While every show has a star and a dud, usually they are spread out enough that everyone gets a share of both (and the truly talented riders can make both work in their favor).

I am a more confident rider having spent a couple of years showing in this style. I wish everyone could have the experience I did, because it is truly heartwarming and reminds me of why we all began to ride in the first place.

Anyone else have positive experiences from riding / donating / volunteering in these circuits? :slight_smile:

Personally, I loved IHSA during my college years. I had never owned my own horse & always catch rode or leased in high school , so (other than getting used to the lack of warmup fences and the reality that you rode what you had, you didn’t try to fix the horse)… I thought IHSA leveled the playing field and was a great way to ride in college with limited finances, especially for the beginner level girls but up to the higher levels (I started in novice and pointed out to Open fences by my senior year). Now on the otherhand, if you were a Maclay rider as a junior or headed to the Grand Prix and had only schooled or shown your own made horses and never catch ridden… of course IHSA would be a bad fit.

Who are these people that say they hate it? Why? Lack of warmup / luck of the draw on horse quality?

I don’t think it’s an unpopular opinion on here…? I can think of a couple posters who don’t like it, but there’s rarely anything that everyone agrees on.

Some people like it. Some people don’t. I enjoyed IHSA quite a bit when I did it, and made some really wonderful friends.

I don’t think it’s an unpopular opinion. I think it’s just a case of people being more likely to share their bad experiences and complaints than positive ones.

I rode on our IHSA team when I was in college back in the 1970s and really enjoyed it…well, except for two or three classes/horses that stand out in my memory as being particularly terrifying. :lol:

Is catch-riding circuit a real thing? The post confuses me. ISHA is fine and I see a lot of posters sharing their experiences- good and bad.

I think the catch riding circuit remark referred to IHSA and…what is it, IEA for the younger kids?

I think most don’t really have an opinion on the whole thing nationwide, just relay their experiences or observations of the way those programs run in their area.

You are very much at the mercy of whoever physically runs each of these things in your area. Pony Club isnt catch riding but operates at the whim of whoever runs that chapter.

I don’t think people dislike them on principle, or even really for the challenges of not getting a warmup and then showing an unfamiliar horse… I think people have simply had bad experiences with horse professionals who happen to be coaches for these teams. It has all of the potential for dangerous and unprofessional actions as normal barn relationships, but with the addition of a large group of college aged girls who are typically the last priority of their barns IME. Just like anything else, there are really fantastic programs and, well, less than stellar programs–and for the most part which one you end up with is the luck of the draw (pun not intended).

I did intercollegiate dressage and liked it quite a lot. I think most people on here have no problem with the catch riding aspect, it’s the “what happens to the horses” aspect. (Getting dumped at auctions, ridden into the ground etc.)

Most of the objections I’ve heard have been about the specifics of the coaches, the NCAA rules that cause some strange issues, the challenge of grafting a riding program on to a college that doesn’t really know or care much about horses and horse sport, and the funny attraction of sports “scholarships” in general which are probably not worth the amount of money it costs to get them, if paying for college is your goal rather than sports prowess.

I think the idea of the catch riding is pretty neat. In some ways it’s too bad that we don’t have non-collegiate catch-riding circuits. It could be a neat way to open up our sport. You don’t have to own a ski resort to ski. :slight_smile:

Most of what I see behind the scenes is the quickness to which people blame the horse for their bad round. I am sure the majority are very grateful to those that donate horses, but of course all you hear is the negative.
Not many people are willing to lend out their high-dollar performance horse for IHSA (with good reason). So you get mostly kindly saint horses who can take a joke. And those horses might not be the prettiest, or the best movers, or sometimes, have the best attitudes. And they have bad days. But nothing makes me more mad than people who take that for granted.
This is from someone who regularly lent out their pony for shows, and stood in the audience and sometimes caught the whispers and comments if the ride wasn’t going well.
You never know who the owner is. You should assume that every horse is someone’s pride and joy.

Actually quite a few horses donated to ihsa are former big money show horses. I rode former celebrity owned show jumpers, children’s year end jumper champions, actual international fei competitors, successful indoor hunter campaigners. Yeah there are some plugs who can take a joke,and some problem horses, but certainly some really really nice show horses as well.

IHSA really, really, REALLY depends on what region you’re in. The quality of horses varies so widely from one region to another. I’m in Zone 8 Region 4, and we struggle to even get 6 shows on the calendar a year, and finding enough horses is always an issue. Hardly any of the teams own their own horses. So they do their best asking for people to lend out their horses just for the show and we do get lots of lovely horses donated, but there’s inevitably a few really quite dangerous horses over the course of the year.

I compare our situation to what I see every year at Zones at Stanford and what I experienced at Nationals last year, plus the stories from my trainer who went to Centenary…it’s a whole other world. Junior hunters, Big Eq veterans, former GP and Jr Jumper horses…and no (or very generous) class limits for the teams! In our region the biggest shows only allow each team to bring 3 O/F riders and 4 flat riders per class. Usually it’s only 2 o/f and 3 flat. It makes it just shy of impossible for people to qualify for regionals in one year.

IHSA was really important to me in college because I’d never managed to figure out how to enter the h/j world in high school. I was thrilled to get connected to a nice show barn with good school horses. I got to show on the cheap. IHSA is a very accessible way for new riders to learn or for people to try our discipline without a huge commitment. I wish it were more integrated into the fabric of our local h/j scene.

I loved riding in college. I rode on both the English and Western teams at two different colleges. I can honestly say that my best college memories come from team outings, going to horse shows and the accomplishments made during lessons, shows and tournaments. Not to mention that some of my closest friends still are those who were also my teammates in college.

Yes, there were some not so nice horses, but they’re someone’s horses. I hauled my horse to be used at a show that I was also showing in when the coach of the hosting school asked me if we could use him. Which was fine since he was super quiet, easy, forgiving and had a good brain. I told the girl who rode him two things: Keep him straight and stay the F*^% out of traffic. Okay, so maybe I didn’t say F*^%, but maybe I should have because she found herself in a serious inside bend on the long side surrounded by horses and almost got tossed. Then she bitched and moaned about how she wasn’t going to make it to nationals in open because she kept getting crappy draws… LOL.

Those are the people that you’ll hear the negative experiences from. I LOVED riding as many different horses as I could. It meant you learned something from every ride. Yeah, some were nags. Some had only ten rides on them. Some didn’t have a lead change. Who cares. They did their job (for the most part) and I was thankful they did.

My first western show I pulled a Congress top ten pleasure horse. I broke the lope and squeezed to continue thinking it’d go right back up to the lope because that’s the que isn’t it?! LOL. No. The poor thing just shut right down. I was mortified. So I stopped (with a really freaking cool spur stop), took a deep breath, kissed to the horse and back off into the lope we went. The horse’s owner was there and asked me how long I had been riding, was shocked by my response (I had taken 4 western lessons) and she thanked me for not kicking, or pulling or getting flustered or making it ugly. The judge actually stayed after the show to talk to the riders and called me out on having good horsemanship and judgement. So while I was so embarrassed that I broke the canter on a REALLY FREAKING COOL horse, to me that’s what IHSA is about - the learning experience, being a good horseman and being part of a team in a sport where “team” refers you and your four legged, 1000 pound critter.

I think the catch riding circuit remark referred to IHSA and…what is it, IEA for the younger kids?

I think most don’t really have an opinion on the whole thing nationwide, just relay their experiences or observations of the way those programs run in their area.

You are very much at the mercy of whoever physically runs each of these things in your area. Pony Club isnt catch riding but operates at the whim of whoever runs that chapter.[/QUOTE]

Nope. Pony Club competitions run with the aid of USPC National standards and rules.

I agree with many things posted here re: the quality of horses and programs based on where you are.

I had the great opportunity to compete for my school in college in IHSA as well as NCEA (Varsity) shows before they made the switch to the varsity format. I loved both formats and loved many many many many things about it. I still think that IHSA teams provide awesome opportunities for riders at all levels to compete on a minimal budget while in school. My issue with the current NCEA program is that it has really pulled away from what I think it was at its inception.

I originally considered it a great way to “level the playing field” between the rich kids that could afford to show all the time and have the nicest horses and the kids who still could ride great but maybe didn’t have that same financial opportunity (like myself). Now in order to get on a semi-competitive team you have to spend a small fortune as a junior rider. If you want to be on a team at most schools you better have an impressive resume of show experience. So, instead of kids that can’t afford to do that being able to prove their riding ability and earn a scholarship (which they may very well need), those top spots are going to kids whose horse probably costs as a state school undergrad degree, let alone the other expenses. I’m not saying those girls don’t ride great also, but I guess I just wish that the kids like me could still have a chance to get there.

However, I loved being on the team, I don’t have student loans, and I had a lot of great experiences in college because of the team I was on, so it served it’s purpose for me!

As far as the format goes, I just love it and wish I could still do it. I loved the challenge of getting on a horse I didn’t know- whether I had the 5 minute warm up or not. It was a blast and if someone asked me to do it again tomorrow I would!

I love hearing people’s positive vibes. To those who said it was not an unpopular opinion, you might be right. However, I definitely grew up in a barn that frowned upon these circuits so maybe the hivemind has influenced my perception of its unpopularity.

Either way, I am so glad all who posted had this opportunity to ride in such a unique way.

I rode on the Johnson & Wales IDA team; while not IHSA, I did ride sometimes with the IHSA riders as they were often in my lessons.

The horses were NICE. I sat on some incredibly well trained horses. We even had some ‘celebrities’ at the barn too (as in, small tour dressage horses that were well known in the area and stepped down to a less strenuous program). There were a few retired derby horses there as well – generally, the program got some very fancy horses.

I think, in our region, we had some of the nicest/highest trained horses (no bias, I swear) - either that, or I just got ‘unlucky’ draws with greener horses – but really, I was happy to ride any horse at any level. I learned so much and was able to ride retired GP horses… something that would have never been an opportunity for a TB-smurf like me!

I would ride at the IDA/IHSA again in a heartbeat and would recommend it for anyone who wants to sharpen the tools in their toolbox. My biggest quibble was the management and the lack of turnout with these colleges - I think so many of the horses would have been happier if they had more than an hour or two of turnout daily.

I loved my IHSA experience, and loaned my horse for nationals one year out of gratitude for the organization and all the wonderful lessons it taught me.

I’m sad to think that this is an unpopular opinion. It’s a system where you can be unlucky sometimes, but the best riders typically rise to the top. And you learn who has true sportsmanship.

IHSA was horrible for me, the number of times I rode horses that were clearly unsound behind and had to be cowgirl kicked to get into a canter was depressing. No one cared about how unsound they were. I finally got sick of it and quit.

And for the record, I really thought I’d love IHSA because I always rode a ton of different horses and loved Pony Club switch rides. A great idea, but the way I experienced it was IMO abusive.