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.