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

I rode western when it was just starting in Zone 1. My first year we only had three teams!

Loved IHSA and in our zone we made do with the horses. You could get a polo pony at uconn, a big nice hunter at Mt Holyoke, or a chubby morgan at UMass. You rode what you drew. I must say overall the judges were great a picking riders doing a great job on a mediocre horse than just picking whoever could sit pretty on a made horse.

As time has gone on, the horse quality has improved but the spirit is the same.

I drew an andalusian for reining once. He was a good sport, comfy, had a lead change but he wasn’t a reiner! I won the class because the judge saw that I helped him and emphasized his good qualities. Judging certainly makes a difference but one must always remember the purpose of IHSA: learning, sportsmanship, and fun.

I am thinking about riding alumni next year just because I miss the atmosphere of the shows!

I loved loved loved IHSA, mostly because of my team, barn, coach, etc. but looking back on it now I didn’t realize how much it actually damaged my confidence on strange horses. I actually struggle with cantering a new horse on the first ride and depending on the day will bail from a w/t/c flat class. It’s all totally a mental thing, too, because I definitely am competent enough.

I am definitely NOT one to blame the horse, so I hope this isn’t interpreted in that way, but for the level I was showing at we were thrown some horses that were probably too advanced for our skill level. I rode against and showed frequently at one of the top equestrian colleges, so they definitely had a lot of serious show horses there. On top of that, the less advanced riders rode at the end of the day, which meant the tired/grumpy horses who had been going all day started acting out with the riders least prepared to handle it.

So, fun, yes. Flawed, yes. Don’t regret it at least!

I absolutely hated it. It was a club sport so had little university funding. Lessons were full price. The instructor I had was a royal B—made George Morris’s harsher comments sound like a peewee soccer coach. The team was MASSIVE, the bulk of it there to pad the pockets of the host barn and fund raise for the smaller team of show riders. The quality of the horses was abysmal. In the semester of lessons I had I learned to try to look motionless and that I should lose more weight if I wanted to show.

I quit, found a local barn that bred and trained hunters and spent the next 4 years catch riding as many lovely young warmbloods as I wanted all day long and had a relationship with the owners that made me feel like I had a family away from home. I learned so much more that I ever would have on the team. Including starting and training youngsters, handling foals and breeding. Some of the other riders who left the team and I started a new club so we enjoyed going to local events together like expos and such.

Definitely it depends on the folks in charge. The team has since moved barns and trainers and it sounds like the girls are having a great time.