Local trainer Katie Maxwell coaches Clemson Intercollegiate Riding Team all the way to Nationals

Published 11:44 am Friday, September 5, 2008

Clemson University isn&squo;t a local school, but an enthusiastic group of students makes the hour and a half drive from campus to Gowensville, S.C. for the IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Show Association) equestrian team practice held at Sovan Hill Equestrian Center.

Four years ago this was a student run team. Then local professional rider/trainer Katie Maxwell stepped in. She provides lessons to the team at a reduced rate and team members horses stay at her farm, Sovan Hill. When stalls were scarce this past spring, Motlow Creek and Sally Frick assisted in boarding and caring for the team&squo;s horses.

&dquo;I donate my time to take the team to competitions because they are not funded by the school. Also, every member gets an equal opportunity on our team. I feel like a club sport should be available to everyone, and everyone should have the opportunity to ride and show. The limited spots at shows should be filled by the hardest working team members. It is difficult to determine who those team members are because everyone gives so much to the team. Because of their effort, we make sure that everyone gets to show each semester,&dquo; says Maxwell.

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This year the Clemson Intercollegiate Riding Team had three individual riders qualify and compete in the three highest divisions at Nationals in Los Angeles, Calif., this past May. All three finished in the top ten, including an 8th place in the prestigious Cacchione Cup and a win in Open Over Fences. The win makes the Clemson Equestrian Team National Champions in the Open Over Fences Division.&bsp; The three individuals competing for the team were Ashley Phillips in Intermediate; Charlotte Powers in the Cacchione Cup and Sarah Spainhour in Open.

&dquo;Most teams pick their strongest riders to ride all of the time, leaving their less experienced riders on the bench,&uot; says Maxwell. &uot;We have team members who have been to Prix de States or the Equitation Finals as well as riders who are sitting on a horse for the first time. While giving everyone the opportunity to show, we still qualified three individuals for Nationals. Only three other schools in the nation qualified more riders.&dquo;

History of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association

IHSA, Inc. was established in April 1999 with the purpose of promoting competition for riders of any skill level regardless of financial status. Students compete individually and as team members at both regional and national levels. For all who take part, these IHSA competitions develop sportsmanship, team enthusiasm and horsemanship.

The IHSA&squo;s competitions are affordable because individual colleges host each event and provide the horses. However, this is not the only unique aspect of IHSA competitions. Not only are riders not allowed to use their own horses, but personal tack and schooling/warm ups are not permitted.

Horses and riders are paired up randomly by drawing. This enables riders to compete on an even keel and truly test their horsemanship ability. Levels range from beginner walk-trot through advanced open equitation competition. At the more advanced levels, competition includes jumping as well as flat work. Riders advance through the levels by accumulating points at the horse shows.

First place is worth 7 points, second place is worth 5, third is 4 points, fourth is worth 3 points and so on. Once 35 points have been accumulated, the rider advances to the next level. Once riders qualify at the horse shows, winners compete at the regional finals. The top three winners from that competition go on to the zone finals. The best two individuals from the zone finals progress to the national championships held each year in May.

In addition to qualifying individual riders for nationals, each team strives to be the high point college representing the region at the National Horse Show. This is accomplished in the same manner as individual competitions. However, the coach of each college designates the &dquo;point rider&dquo; in each division. At this time, the &dquo;point rider&dquo; is not only competing for themselves but they are representing the college as well. As in individual competition, the three best teams go on to compete at the zone finals. From there, the top two teams from each zone compete at nationals. The National Team Champion team is awarded the Cacchione Cup.

The IHSA is a recognized member of USA Equestrian (USAE) and the American Quarter Horse Association. Because of this, the IHSA is actively involved with the top professionals in the industry and all horse shows are judged by USAE/AQHA recognized officials.

The Cacchione Cup is a competition for the high point open&bsp; rider of each region. There are 30 regions in the country. The class is run like the USEF Medal finals and is, in fact, recognized by the USEF. Clemson had the high point open rider in the region and represented Region II Zone V in the Cup.

&uot;We can truly attribute our success to teamwork,&uot; says Maxwell. &uot;We hope that our national success, the fact that the team&squo;s average GPA is 3.6, and the fact that we are helping host the George Morris clinic after he returns from coaching the Olympic team will get the school&squo;s attention so we can acquire funding to keep the team active and successful.&uot;