IHSA vs. Varsity Equestrian

As a prospective Equestrian student-athlete, you may have heard talk about Varsity Equestrian vs. Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA). The two groups both offer riding opportunities to college athletes, but the format of competition varies.

Under both associations, the host school will provide all the horses and equipment required for competition. Classes include Equitation on the Flat, Equitation Over Fences, Horsemanship, and Reining.

In Varsity Equestrian, competitions are in a head to head format where one rider from each school will compete on the same horse. The rider with the higher score will earn 1 point for their team. Judges are scoring the classes based off industry standards. Draws are done at random, and riders will receive 4-5 minutes to warm-up on the horse they draw so they can become familiar with them. Coaches choose the athletes who are riding the best at that time for the competition. All schools competing in these shows are sponsored by their respective athletic departments. This means we are all abiding by NCAA, Conference, and our Athletic Department rules and regulations. Varsity Equestrian teams will always compete with the schools in their respective conference, and the remainder of their schedule is filled with competitions with schools all over the country. 12 Western and 12 Hunter Seat teams are invited to compete at the Varsity Equestrian National Championship, as well as 8 Individual riders in each event. Invitations are based on regular season performances.

In IHSA competition, riders are placed into levels depending on prior riding experience and winnings. Team competition at IHSA shows involves tabulating points earned by one designated rider (point rider) in each level. This creates an opportunity for beginners and open riders alike, and riders only compete against others with similar abilities. IHSA divides the country into regions and each school competes primarily in its region to earn the privilege to advance into post-season competition. Under this format, riders receive no warm-up time on their horse and a single school could draw the same horse repeatedly. Judges are scoring the classes on the riders ability to control and maneuver the horse as well as their Equitation, but they are asked to ‘look through the horse’.

K-State has competed and has been successful under both formats in the past. With Top-5 finishes at the IHSA Nationals and the Varsity Equestrian National Championships, the Wildcats have had a taste of both. In May of 2006, we were able to compete in both championships as a team for the last time. Starting with the 2006-07 season, our program focused on the Varsity Equestrian format. The majority of our season consists of Varsity shows. However, Kansas State still hosts two IHSA competitions per year and continues to qualify individual team members individually for IHSA post-season competition.