Members of IHSA club team at K-State reaching top rungs of competition

Two Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association Club Team riders at Kansas State University qualified for zones after an impressive show season. K-State students, Olivia Rigdon and Jennie Yount, spent the last year building up to their recent wins at Missouri State University’s regional competition the weekend of March 27.

The Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association is a national organization that focuses on providing equestrian competition for all college and university riders while promoting sportsmanship, horsemanship, and academic excellence. Established in 1967 by Robert Cacchione, the organization has grown and now encompasses 40 regions in 8 zones, with over 400 member colleges and around 10,000 members who compete in hunter seat equitation, Western horsemanship and reining.

IHSA welcomes all riders from beginners to advanced to compete individually or on a team. During competitions, horses are provided by the host college or university, and riders draw lots to see which horse they will get to compete on. Since riders are judged on their horsemanship and how well they can ride the horse they randomly draw, they are not allowed to ride the horse they draw before their class begins. That way, the judges can fairly judge the class, and the riders can have fun testing their skills on a horse they might not have ridden before.

The IHSA Club Team at K-State has a hunt seat and a western team that competes regularly throughout the season at shows around the Midwest. However, the club is more than just a competition team. With recent leadership updates and the addition of several new officer positions, the club can now cater to more than just competing members while still growing the equestrian community on campus. This past semester, Meagan Parkins, the clubs social and fundraising officer, organized a group that went to volunteer at the Rock Springs 4-H Horse Bowl and planned a group trail ride open to anyone in the club. During the club’s monthly meetings, members play trivia games centered around horse knowledge and facts, so that members can learn new information about horses and competing members can prepare for the tie-breaking horse trivia questions at IHSA shows.

The club also holds weekly Western and English lessons at Vermillion Valley Equestrian Center in Belvue, Kansas. Ann White, owner and head trainer at VVEC, has led many riders to success at local and national shows and trained various riders who compete on National Collegiate Equestrian Association teams coaches the IHSA English team. However, White is relatively new to the team. She joined as a coach two years ago because she has a passion for college equestrian athletics and she wanted to make it her “mission to reinstate an equestrian presence on K-State’s campus.” Each team lesson is tailored to the IHSA competition format, where each rider will ride a different VVEC equine partner to broaden the team’s riding abilities and learn to ride different horses.

“It’s been really fun watching everyone improve over the year,” White said. “We’re finally organized enough as a team, and everyones riding well, so at this point we are just ready to soar.”

The same could be said for the western team coached by Sarah Mattocks, an alum of K-State who was a previous IHSA national champion while attending K-State. Highlights of the western teams show season include the western team sportsmanship award that was awarded to Lauren Kastner during the show at Black Hawk College, and a regional qualification by Cheyenne Town.

The English team’s season started off with the first show last October at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. Highlights from the show include Yount’s win in the open equitation on the flat and Rigdon’s wins in open equitation over fences on both days of the competition. Parkins also won her intermediate equitation over fences class and Sarah Hene took double wins in limit equitation on the flat. The team started the season with a strong performance leading them to win team champion on the first day and reserve champion on the second.

Then the team traveled to Black Hawk College in Illinois where athletes continued with their success. Yount took first in the open equitation over fences, Parkins took a win in the intermediate equitation over fences, and Rachel Matthews and Hene both won their limit equitation over fences classes. Kaylee Sund also tied for high point rider on the first day due to her wins in both the limit equitation over fences and limit equitation on the flat, and there were multiple top placings including Kastner’s pre-novice equitation on the flat and Matthews and Hene’s limit equitation on the flat. The team’s success led them to land a solid reserve champion finish on both days.

Finally, after a year of hard work training and competing, the team traveled to Missouri State University to finish off the last show of the regular season and then compete in the regional competition the day after. On the first day, Yount placed first and third in her open equitation over fences classes and first and second in her open equitation on the flat classes. Rigdon also won first and second in her open equitation over fences classes and first and second in her open equitation on the flat classes as well. There were several other riders with top placings including Shannon Rezac who won her beginner equitation on the flat class, Kastner who won her pre-novice equitation on the flat class, and Lauren Andrews who won her novice equitation on the flat class. Parkins also came through with a first and second in the intermediate equitation on the flat, Matthews placed second in her limit equitation over fences, and Sund placed second in her limit equitation on the flat class. Ending the regular season with another team champion win.

At the end of the regular season, the IHSA team at Kansas State was ranked second in their region of 17 universities with only Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, ranked above it. However, two of the team’s riders, Rigdon and Yount, had acquired enough points throughout the season from winning previous classes to qualify themselves for regionals. Yount won her open equitation on the flat and placed second in her open equitation over fences, winning reserve champion high point open rider for the region. Rigdon placed first in her open equitation over fences and second in her equitation on the flat, winning champion high point open rider for the region.

“I was so surprised. I knew I had worked hard for what I earned, but it was still shocking,” Rigdon said, “ It’s a good feeling to be rewarded for all the hard work I’ve put into my riding over the last few semesters.”

Due to their success at regionals, Jennie Yount and Olivia Rigdon both qualified for zones at Texas Tech University in April and because Rigdon was the high point open rider for the region, she is eligible to represent the region in the Cacchione Cup, a prestigious competition dedicated to Mario Cacchione and given to the rider who wins high point open rider at Nationals.

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