Tricks of the Trade: 10 Tips to Get the Most out of IHSA

IHSA group photo

By Taylor Eyo

The Intercollegiate Horse Show Association is an organization that allows equestrians of all experience levels to ride with and compete against schools across the United States. To summarize that: you can enjoy ponies while getting a degree. For over 40 years, the IHSA has continued to create affordable riding opportunities for college students while also helping support education through scholarships. If you’re thinking about joining a team or even if you’re already on one, here are 10 tips to make your experience the best it can be. Horse Tack Co. is proud to sponsor the IHSA, students and future equestrian.

Understand Equitation

All IHSA competition is equitation. You are judged solely on you. Do a little bit of research on equitation beforehand, and check out the IHSA rulebook and brush up on the USEF tests. If something doesn’t quite make sense, take your questions to the team coach or other members. If need be, go over things again right before a horse show.

Be open and honest about your riding
Your team officers and coaches are invested in your success, but they need to know your strengths, weaknesses, limitations, and the like. As an officer myself, my overall goal for all of our riders is to help them improve and grow as equestrians. Your competition record also determines your starting IHSA division, and talking yourself up can put you in a class you might not be ready for. Let your coach know if you’re not clicking well with a certain horse or if there’s a particular exercise your trainer at home does with you.


Set goals
You’re only in school for so long. Whether they’re competition based or not, set riding goals for yourself, and stay on track. School can be a tough time. Even the smallest achievements can make a world of difference. Again, share these with your coach. They’re here to help you!

Share your ideas
There’s a lot of fundraising that goes into running an IHSA team, especially when member numbers are high. If you’re coming from another team, or if you’ve had to fundraise for a show team in the past, absolutely share your ideas and experiences. The more you put into a team, the more you get out.

Be social!
Your officers want to see you at events! This doesn’t mean that you have to attend every single social activity, but the more we know you, the better we can assist you. IHSA teams also offer you the option to network with a new group of equestrians. Be friendly with your teammates. They just might have a saddle for sale, some breeches to trade, or a perfect horse for you to lease.

Learn to offset the cost
While IHSA riding is certainly not the most expensive type out there, horses (and college) are inherently a financial commitment. If you’re paying for school on your own, scholarships are still the best way to cover part of your expenses, but also take a look at on-campus jobs. You can typically make between $8 to $10 per hour across a variety of different positions. Plus, it’ll be something to add onto your resume.

Keep your fitness up
The amount of saddle time you get varies greatly depending on the school. In the event that you’re only riding once or twice a week, taking up a fitness regime in addition to riding can help keep you in competition shape. There are various exercises that can stretch and strengthen the leg muscles used during riding. Balance, core, and endurance related exercises also aid in making you as competitive as possible.

Don’t be that rider
You know, the one who’s constantly talking others down or thinks that their discipline is the best thing since sliced bread. There is no “I” in team. No one likes a Negative Nelly, so if you’re bringing the team down, officers will deal with you as they seem appropriate.

Consider riding as an alumni
IHSA offers a division specifically for graduate level riders. This is especially nice for those who want to continue with a team that they’ve been with for four years. Those who have never competed with the IHSA are still eligible to compete as alumni. As a bonus, the classes are cheaper for alumni riders, only $30 each!


Get ready for compromises
You don’t get to pick the coach. You don’t get to pick the horses. You don’t get to pick the tack. Odds are, you’ll butt heads a few times, whether it be with your trainer, other team members, or a particular horse, but you have got to go with the flow. Maybe the horse you drew at a show isn’t quite right for you, or maybe the horse’s equipment doesn’t fit you right. Suck it up, put in your best effort, and I assure you things will run as smoothly as possible. No one in this equation is working against you, so don’t work against everyone else. Keep your chin up, and you’ll have the time of your life.

Above all, school is the most important thing here, and you should not sacrifice your education just to ride. It takes the right balance, a lot of caffeine, and some lost sleep, but very rarely can you progress in this sport without some grit and a kink in your back.

Horse Tack Co. is a proud sponsor of the IHSA, and all members can use the code “LoveTheRide” for a 15% discount on all purchases.


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