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How to be a Successful Rider in College through IHSA

Most young equestrians dream of being a star NCEA athlete at one of the most prestigious schools in the country. What they often don’t realize is that you can have the same amount of success at a lower level.

The IHSA provides college-level riders of all experience levels an opportunity to compete in western and hunt seat events at colleges that are not typically recognized through the NCEA.

You do not have to be one of the country’s top riders to compete in the IHSA, but even if you are one of the best riders, don’t count out showing through IHSA.

This organization does contain many fantastic riders at every level. Not only do riders get to compete at regular shows, but they also have the opportunity to qualify for their respective regional and semi-final shows. From there, the best of the best go on to show at the National Championships.

While IHSA teams may not have such a demanding schedule like most NCEA teams, it can still be challenging to try and balance school and the team.

Being able to continue showing in college is a privilege that some students don’t have. To compete well and be successful in school, you need a large amount of drive and determination.

Be ready to not only compete for yourself, but also your team.

Just like in the NCEA, the IHSA shows have you competing, not only as an individual, but also competing as a team. At any regular show, individuals compete for themselves, but in this sport, how you do individually benefits your team overall. Getting rid of any individualistic mindset that you may have will help you as a rider and allow you to be a valuable teammate.

Your team will more than likely be small, so get to know everyone.

Some IHSA schools are very small and potentially have a hard time recruiting new riders. It is very likely that your new team could have only ten riders, but embrace it. Just like you, everyone on the team wants to do well and have fun. Try and have as many team bonding nights as possible. Being able to form friendships with your teammates helps everyone get along and will lead to team success.

Keep up on your school work.

College work is stressful and overwhelming at times but maintaining a good work ethic is very important when you’re on a team. Typically, teams require their riders to maintain a 2.0 minimum GPA to compete. It is easy to fall behind with work, and it is also typical to ignore work on a show weekend. Setting up a schedule for specific class work during the week can be helpful. During a show weekend, set aside a few hours for everyone to get their homework done. You can have food delivered to your room, and you can always have access to help from your teammates.

Stay in shape.

Gaining weight in college is inevitable. If you don’t already work out and eat healthy, you should start embracing the healthy life. Most schools already charge students a “recreation fee” to use their gym, even if they never step foot in it. Most NCEA schools require their riders to have workout sessions, and some IHSA teams are no different. Asking some of your teammates to join you in the gym not only motivates everyone, but it also helps the health of the group.

Trust the level your coach puts you in.

No matter how successful of a rider you were before you came to college, there are guidelines through the IHSA on how to place riders at an appropriate level. Don’t be discouraged if your coach puts you at a lower level than you were expecting. The coach is responsible for putting you in a class where you will benefit the team the most. You will have plenty of chances to point up. Just learn to trust the process and get ready to show to the best of your ability.

Be yourself and have fun.

The best thing that you can do while you’re showing is think about why you love this crazy sport. All the years of dedication, hard work and even tears have gotten you to the college level. Maybe the childhood dreams of competing for a big school didn’t work out, but you still have a chance to be great. Take every show as a learning experience and never forget the memories that you will make. Be sure to be supportive of your teammates and make the next four years of your life the best that they can be.

About the author: Sutherlyn Hollabaugh is currently a junior at Clarion University of Pennsylvania where she is majoring in Speech Pathology and minoring in Special Education. Sutherlyn has been showing most of her life, with most of her career being spent showing AQHA. She and her brother Tanner are very active in showing the EWD classes, and she is looking forward to her second amateur year with her five-year-old gelding Gettin Alotta Lukes.