Sixteen collegiate equestrian riders have been chosen to participate in the 2017 AQHA Collegiate Horsemanship Challenge November 11-12. Photo © The American Quarter Horse Association

Sixteen College Equestrians Rise to the AQHA World Show Challenge

Riding on a college equestrian team is a dream for many within the horse industry. Although this is not always an easy task, anything is a possibility with a little hard work, determination and passion. Besides having your trainer, barn family and family behind you, showing horses is not considered a “team” event.

However, once you get to college, that all changes. Being on a college equestrian team means you have a built-in family who is encouraging you every step of the way.

On November 11th and 12th, sixteen collegiate horsemanship riders from all different teams compete head-to-head, in hopes of winning the 2017 AQHA Collegiate Horsemanship Challenge, held in Oklahoma City.

GoShowHorse asked four of the participants who were selected for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, just what it means to be chosen for this opportunity.

Rachel Williams, Fresno State Equestrian

Being selected to ride in the AQHA Horsemanship Challenge in my final year of riding full-time is a tremendous honor. It is a verification of, after four years of putting everything I have into this group, my hard work and dedication have paid off. Riding against some of the top girls in the NCEA is tremendously exciting for me, but without a doubt, it will also be very challenging.

I want to thank all of the coaches who have worked with me during my time on the team. I value everyone who has pushed me to get better. Coach Eric has helped me every step of the way, and without him, I wouldn’t be here. A huge thank you to all of my awesome and supportive teammates. Lastly and most importantly, I want to thank my mom. She continues to be my rock through all of the challenges that come with being a full-time student athlete. I can’t wait to touch down in Oklahoma City and, hopefully, bring home a win for my ‘Dogs.

Mark Mowbray, St. Andrews University Equestrian Team

I feel extremely blessed and honored to have the opportunity to show in the AQHA Collegiate Challenge. When I started my college career at St. Andrews University, I set two goals for myself: 1. To win a National Championship with my team. 2. To ride in the Collegiate Challenge. I am extremely proud to accomplish both of these goals during my career. It is an honor and a privilege to represent not only St. Andrews University, but the IHSA as well. The Collegiate Challenge is an outstanding exhibition that showcases the true riding abilities of both NCEA and IHSA riders, who have worked diligently to qualify for the event.

I owe my deepest gratitude to my coaches; Carla Wennberg and Lindsey Trockenbrot, SAU Equestrian Program Director Peggy McElveen, SAU staff, my parents Nathan and Jeannie Mowbray, and the countless trainers who have helped me in my collegiate years: Jason English, Jamie Murrow, Michael Colvin, Rhonda Replogle, Debra Jones-Wright and Rebecca Halvorson.

Without them, riding in this challenge would be impossible, I cannot thank them enough. I would also like to thank the American Quarter Horse Association and IHSA Founder Bob Cacchione for giving me this opportunity.

Kirsten Chamberland, Oklahoma State Equestrian

Being a part of the AQHA Collegiate Challenge is such a fantastic opportunity. I am very excited to get a chance to ride some very nice horses and compete with talented riders from both NCEA and IHSA. Being on a collegiate team has taught me so much both in and out of the arena. I’ve gained so much knowledge on how to adapt and adjust quickly to different types of horses, which will significantly help me in the show pen.

I never thought that I would get to be a competitor in the collegiate challenge, but I am beyond thankful for the opportunity. I wouldn’t be in this position without the help of Larry Sanchez, a great group of teammates, my trainers back home, Chris Moore and Jodie Moore, and of course, my parents. I am very excited to ride for my school and represent OSU Equestrian in the best way possible.


Abbi Demel, Baylor Equestrian Team

It is truly an honor to be selected to compete in the AQHA horsemanship challenge. This has been a goal of mine since I started my collegiate career at Baylor University. It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication to get where I am today. In order to get a chance to represent Baylor Equestrian, I knew I was going to have to work hard to improve my consistency in the show pen and improve my record. Riding horses and competing has its ups and downs but perseverance, confidence, and a winning mindset can make a huge difference in one’s success.

First of all, I would like to thank my parents, Brad and Shelly Demel, for giving me the opportunity to show in the AQHA industry from a young age allowing me to develop my skills. I would also like to thank Barbie Evans and my Coach Cindy Walquist for always pushing me and making me the rider I am today. Last but not least, a huge thank you goes out to my teammates for challenging me and cheering me on every day in practice and at meets.


GoHorseShow wishes all of the NCEA and IHSA riders the best of luck this weekend in Oklahoma City.

About the Author: GoHorseShow intern, Kinsey McDougald is a junior at Oklahoma State University where she is a part of the equestrian team. Originally from California, she grew up on a ranch and showed registered Hereford cattle and Quarter Horses. Since the day she was born, horses have always been a part of her life.