Semi-Final Horse Show A Success

by Alyssa Stastny

Award winners

Utah State University hosted one of just three Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) Western National Semi-Final shows in March at the university’s Sam Skaggs Family Equine Education Center.

USU’s Western Equestrian Team has been a top competitor in the region for more than a decade. Until now, there hasn’t been a team in the region with the facilities or access to enough show-quality horses to host this caliber of event. In recent years, the USU equine science program has developed immensely, making hosting a possibility. According to Kelsey Romney, USU Extension professional practice associate professor, “The stars aligned for this opportunity and it is a huge honor and responsibility to host IHSA Western National Semi Finals.”

The show was a national IHSA qualifier and USU organizers worked closely with IHSA administrators to ensure that the event followed all standard protocols. Two American Quarter Horse Association judges and four show stewards came from various states to ensure proper judging and scoring. IHSA Founder and Executive Director Bob Cacchione also attended the show.

Hosting required the timely completion of the center’s new 50-stall barn and arranging to bring in more than 40 horses to fill 22 classes. And because riders do not bring their own horses to the competition, organizers used a system to randomly match horses to riders. Additionally, there were the logistics of helping arrange lodging, parking and seating for more than 300 event attendees. 

In total, 111 riders from 31 colleges and universities participated in the show and feedback from participants and spectators was overwhelmingly positive about their experience at USU. The show was livestreamed and drew over 6,500 views, allowing family and friends to support riders from across the country. The livestream included commercials highlighting USU and the equine science program, putting USU on the map at a national level.

Among volunteers for the event were members of the USU Western Equestrian Team who devoted much of their spring break to preparing for and running the show. The entire team was there to prepare horses, clean stalls and sweep throughout the show. Four team members also qualified to ride in the show, including team co-captain Camille Bethers.

Bethers, who has been riding horses since she was 6, joined the USU Western Equestrian Team as a freshman. She shows in horsemanship, which involves maintaining proper riding positions and techniques while guiding the horse through a series of maneuvers. Bethers and her teammates Caitlyn Davis and Aurora Quinn, qualified to compete at the IHSA National Championships in Syracuse, New York, in May, where Bethers placed 8th in Advanced Western Horsemanship and Davis placed 3rd in Open Reining.

IHSA offers a unique opportunity to all undergraduate students who are interested in showing horses because riders don’t need to own a horse to train and compete, making a cost-intensive sport more accessible, Romney said.

Bethers said being part of USU’s Western Equestrian Team has helped her to become a better rider under the direction of coach Jason Romney, who was a top competitor nationally when he was a student and was named the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences’ 2017 Teacher of the Year.

To learn more about USU’s Equine Science program and events, visit the ADVS departments website here.