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!