About Us/ FAQS

Welcome to
Western Washington University’s
IHSA Equestrian Team!

 We are a student-lead sports club team that combines sports competition and a love of 
horses to provide undergraduate students the opportunity to enjoy the 
equestrian experience even while being a full-time student. 

The Ins and Outs of Our Team!

The Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA)
We participate in IHSA, which is a program that expands through the whole United
States so that college students can participate in intercollegiate equestrian
competition. Keep
reading for a lot more info about how IHSA works and everything you might need to know
about this awesome organization.

Sports Club
Our team operates through the University’s sports club program. The sports club program
makes it possible for our school to have lots of different kinds of student-run teams that
aren’t varsity. We are given a teeny tiny bit of money from the school, but most of our
team account is funded by team dues (which you pay each quarter), fundraising, and
donations.You are required by WWU to have at least a 2.0 GPA to be on a sports club team. There are also many other rules and requirements our team must follow in order
to continue to be a sports club. Part of this is that our team must remain student-lead , which will be explained more below.

Officer Board
Our team has five official positions on our officer board: president, vice president,
secretary, treasurer, and show secretary. These five positions make up the bulk of our
leadership, though of course we couldn’t make it by without the help of our dedicated
PRESIDENT: In order to run for president, you must have acted on the officer board for
at least one year. Our team president is really the face of our team for all the other
sports clubs and IHSA teams. She (or he) usually runs the meetings is the overseer
and delegator for everything it takes to keep a team afloat. You would be surprised
how much there is to do on a weekly basis, so the president must be able to stay on
top of all the business!
VICE PRESIDENT: Vice presidents act much like the president’s sidekick, taking on a
variety of tasks to help them out, but our team also places particular emphasis for the
VP to organize volunteer and educational events (clinics). This person may also find
themselves in charge of “team bonding” events as well. Think of her (or him) as your
Event Coordinator in a way.
SECRETARY: Though we don’t spend much time gruelling over “meeting minutes,” the
secretary of our team still has a lot to keep track of. This is also the person who will
book our hotels and rental cars and keep track of our carpooling plans. This person
has to stay pretty organized and be able to meet deadlines.
TREASURER: We all know how expensive the horse industry is...now imagine keeping
trackof a whole equestrian team’s bank account! This job is pretty self-explanatory;
your treasurer is the knower-of-all-things related to team dues, gear orders, being
reimbursed for gas when traveling to shows, etc. Hang on to your receipts, please!
SHOW SECRETARY: This job is quite a bit different than the “secretary” position.
While this person has just as much of a role in the day-to-day operation and
decision-making on the team, their most important job is the organization of our show.
This means booking a facility, hiring judges, writing up the program, and a whole host
of other tasks related to actually holding a large-scale event involving horses and
unorganized college students. Theyalso are in charge of doing all the entries for the
show, and helping make decisions about how to most fairly and accurately divide
up the available showing spots. (Please note: it’s best not to approach this person
at all during the month leading up to our show…)And even though our officer board
all has their own role on the team, they work hard to function as a cohesive unit and
any of them can probably answer your question--even if it doesn’t pertain to their
area of expertise.

Our Coaches
As with any other art form or competitive sport, we wouldn’t get very far without the
support and instruction from accomplished equine professionals in our community. We
almost always have a western coach and an english coach, though we operate together
as one unified team. Our coaches provide the horses and facilities for us to practice,
and donate enormous amounts of time and energy attending as many shows as they
can and generally supporting us.
Though we use our coaches as literal instructors, part of the rules of being a sports club
means our leadership must remain entirely operated by students. This means, officially,
we pay our “coaches” for the use of their horses and facilities, not any actual coaching.
This also means our coaches jobs are to provide those things for us, help us network in
the local horse community when it comes time for our show, and keep us safe. They are
not involved in any team-related decision making such as placing people during tryouts,
entering members into shows, selecting point riders, etc. If you have a question related
to horses, ask a coach! If you have any concerns related to the team, please approach
an officer.

Tryouts and Cuts
Tryouts for our team has two main purposes: placing people into levels (which will be
explained more below) and deciding who is a part of our show-string team and who can
be a non-competitive member. This is one of the most challenging tasks the officers
have to face every year, so please be mindful of that.
Because every show presents us with “rider limits” (also explained more later), we just
don’t have room for every person who wants to show to get to show. For example, if we
have 16 riders who fall into Class 3 (English Novice), and the rider limits are 3 riders for
all 5 shows, there would be one rider in that level who would not get the chance to show
at all. (This will make more sense as you read about shows and levels.) We want our
riders to be able to show as much as possible--both so that they can earn points as an
individual, and so our team can earn points--so we have no choice but to keep our team
at a reasonable size. And it is often the case that the more we win as a team, the more
money and support the school is willing to give us.
At tryouts, riders are evaluated on their ability to ride competitively in IHSA based on
how well they do getting on an unfamiliar horse and riding for about the length of a class.
Your officers--members who have been on the team for a while--are the ones making
the decisions about cuts and level placings, and they have an extensive understanding
of what IHSA is like and what qualities in a rider do the best in the show ring. Our
team tries very hard to cut as few people as possible.
All About IHSA
A History of IHSA
IHSA was started in 1967 by eighteen-year-old Bob Cacchione with the help from his
professor, Jack Fritz, while he attended Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.
That prototype program consisted of just two participating colleges, but today there are
37 regions and 8 zones across the country, with over 400 schools represented by more
than 9,000 riders. It was in 1999 that the original prototype organization transitioned
into the non-profit IHSA. The philosophy behind IHSA’s existence is that all college
students, regardless of their financial status or riding level, should be able to engage in
equestrian sports during their college time. The organization allows for undergraduate
students (and alumni!) to practice and compete in an affordable way, even if they
don’t own horses or have their horse with them at school.

The U.S. is split up into eight zones for IHSA riders to participate in. We belong to
Zone 8, which includes schools from Washington State, Oregon, California, Colorado,
Montana, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, and British Columbia.
(The East coast zones are generally much smaller in geographical size due to a higher
concentration of participating schools).
Within the zones are individual regions. Zone 8 has a total of 5 regions. We are Region 4,
and our region includes all the IHSA teams from Washington State, Oregon, and British

Schools that want to participate in IHSA can set up teams to represent their school! In the 2014-2015 academic year, there were 10 teams in our region.

Levels and Pointing Out
Each discipline is divided into levels, which determine
the classes that run at shows. At every show, one class
for each level will take place. These levels exist as a way
for riders to be competing against other riders of a
comparable performance level; for example, riders who
have only been riding for a short amount of time will compete in a relative class,
while those who have been showing at an upper level their whole life will be
placed accordingly. There are ten English (hunt seat) levels and eight for
Western (horsemanship).

English Levels:
1 - Walk/Trot Hunt Seat (flat)
2a - Beginning Walk/Trot/Canter Hunt Seat (flat)
2b - Advanced Walk/Trot/Canter Hunt Seat (flat)
3 - Novice Hunt Seat Flat
4 - Novice Hunt Seat Over Fences
5 - Intermediate Hunt Seat Flat
6 - Intermediate Hunt Seat Over Fences
7 - Open Hunt Seat Flat
8- Open Hunt Seat Over Fences
9 - Alumni Hunt Seat Flat
10 - Alumni Hunt Seat Over Fences

Western Levels:
11 - Walk/Trot Horsemanship
12a - Intermediate Horsemanship I
12b - Intermediate Horsemanship II
13 - Novice Western Horsemanship
14 - Advanced Western Horsemanship
15 - Open Western Horsemanship
16 - Open Reining Pattern
17 - Alumni Western Horsemanship
18 - Alumni Reining Pattern

For each class you ride in, if you place in 6th place or above, you will earn points.
First place is awarded 7 points, second place earns 5, third earns 4, fourth earns 3, fifth earns 2, and sixth earns 1. When you have accumulated a total of 36 points, you move out of your level and qualify for regionals. (If you are in classes 2a or 12a, it takes 18 points to move up into 2b or 12b, but you still need 36 total to qualify for regionals. This means if you start in 2a, you will qualify for regionals when you have pointed out of 2b and into class 3, etc.) Walk/Trot riders (classes 1 and 11) automatically move up (into classes 2a and 12a) after 2 years, but
still need the full 36 points to qualify for regionals. Don’t worry--your points roll over from
year to year, so you don’t have to start over every fall!

You are placed into your level on the basis of 2 things: your show record and past
horse experience, and how well you try out. IHSA has a set of requirements and
standards riders must meet for each level, and show records from certain organizations
are the ones that are accepted--it’s not up to our team how you’re placed in this area.
However, your tryout can determine if our team tries to steward you up or down a
level from where the IHSA system places you. In most cases, you will be more
successful if you are placed in a lower level than your actual capabilities so you have
the chance to win and earn points! Don’t worry! If you are placed in a level that 
seems low to you, it is because we think you will be good enough to point up 
quickly and earn points for our whole team.
This can be a confusing process so don’t hesitate to ask questions.

Regions are required to hold at least 5 and up to 10 shows per discipline each year. But
even after all the region shows are done for the year, some riders get to participate
in the post-season shows. Regionals is a show hosted by each region and is for riders
who pointed up out of their levels (earned at least 36 points). If you make it to regionals,
you will be competing in the class you pointed out of against all the other riders in your
region who did the same. First and second place riders from each level at regionals are
qualified for Zones. Zones is a much bigger show that occurs at least 21 days prior to
Nationals. Riders compete in the level they pointed out of, and compete against each
region’s top 2 riders in each level. Our Zone is home to 5 regions, so there can be up to
10 riders in a class at Zones. The first and second place riders in each level at Zones
are qualified for Nationals. Nationals is as high as you can go! Our team frequently
gets to send riders to Nationals, which is awesome. At Nationals, you are competing
against all the top riders in the country. If our team wins the region high point throughout
the regular season, we get to send one rider from each level to represent our team at
Zones as well, so you may get the chance to compete at Zones even if you don’t
accumulate enough points, but this requires us all to work hard to earn points for our
team! The teams that place first and second at zones also go on to compete at nationals.

How Shows Work
IHSA show season happens during fall and winter quarter. Schools can host shows for
the region (remember, our region includes Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia)
that take place during the weekend of their choice. One show occurs during a single
day, with a single judge, and a single discipline (either Western or English). Many
schools will host a show on Saturday and Sunday of a weekend; sometimes it’s a
“double English,” “double Western,” or both disciplines. Host schools are responsible
for providing horses for their show. Each region is required to hold at least 5
(and a maximum of 10) shows in each discipline.

The Schedule
First things first, our team will carpool together to all of the shows (so no need to worry
about figuring out how to get yourself to Corvallis, Oregon on your own!). We try to
leave as early on Friday as possible, meaning, as soon as everyone on the team is out
of class. (This usually ends up being in the late afternoon.) We stay at hotels together,
or sometimes, at team members’ families’ houses. Shows start at the time the host
school chooses, usually between 8am and 10am. Before the show begins, however,
our team arrives at the facility in time for the coaches’ meeting and to watch warm-up.
This means we often get to the show grounds around 2 hours early. Though it means
EARLY mornings, usually shows get done in the early afternoon leaving us enough
time to take naps (on Saturdays) and drive home (on Sundays). Each show will provide
a program including a class list. Don’t assume that because levels are  numbered
“Class 1” (etc.), classes will run in that order! At English shows, over fences classes
will always go first and flat classes do not go in number order. At Western shows,
reining will always go last.

Coaches’ Meeting
The coaches’ meeting--though deceivingly named--is not attended by our team’s
actual coaches. A couple of members from our officer board will go to the coaches’
meeting to ensure that all the entries are fully updated and correct for the show and
to draw horses. (Basically it includes tediously going through every entered rider
in the program, making sure they’re in the correct class and have a horse.)

Horse Draws
Most of the time horse draws will happen during the coaches’ meeting and you
will find out from your officers which horse you’ve drawn, but occasionally riders
will get to draw their own horses. Your classes will be called one at a time and you
will go draw a number out of a “hat.” That number will correlate to a horse on
the list of horses that will go in your class.

Rider Limits
Because the school has to collect enough horses for everyone to ride in the show,
they won’t ever have enough horses for every single person to get to come ride
and show as much as they want . This means host schools have to limit the number
of riders that can ride in each class from each team. Rider limits are usually
around 3. Unfortunately, this also means that in larger levels (such as class 2, 3,
and 12) not everybody will get to show every time.

How Classes Run
Keep track of what class is currently running and know when yours is coming up so
you can be ready. It’s a good rule of thumb to be totally dressed and ready at least
two classes before your own. While the class before yours is going, you’ll want
to have located your horse and try chatting with the holder/owner to find out all
you can about it. When the class ahead of you changes directions, you will be asked
to mount. Ask the horse holder to check your girth/cinch (you are not allowed to
do this!) and a team member or coach will be around to help you with your stirrups.
You are not allowed to collect your reins until you are walking into the arena (though
you can hold onto them in case of an emergency). Flat classes go like any standard
equitation class. Your whole class will enter the arena together and follow the
directions of the announcer. English classes will end after the group
flat portion, while Western classes always involve a pattern. (Know your
pattern before you get on your horse!) Jumping classes, of course, happen with
one rider at a time.

Placing & Points
As explained above, depending on how you place, you will earn points that go
to your individual record. All records, for teams and individual points:
Your points may also count towards the team’s points! Each team selects
one rider per level to count their points towards the team’s accumulation.
(This is because not all teams in the region have the same number of riders,
so in order to even out fairness, each team chooses one. Yes, there could probably
be better systems, but that’s how the rule book goes.) The officers are the ones
who choose the point riders for each show, and to avoid any sort of stress or
problems, you will probably never know who the point riders are (even if it’s you).
Don’t stress about it!

Show Clothes
FOR ENGLISH: You are required to wear a show shirt (that either has a ratcatcher
or a full collar), a hunt coat, tan knee-patch breeches (no white or dark colors, or
full seat please), either black tall boots or black paddock boots with black half
chaps, black gloves, and an SEI/ASTM approved helmet (black is strongly
recommended). Your hair must be in a hairnet and entirely tucked under
your helmet.
FOR WESTERN: You are required to wear long black pants (show pants are
strongly recommended as opposed to jeans), a show shirt (can be a button
down and must have a collar), a belt, sturdy boots (black strongly
recommended), and either a helmet or a show hat. Your hair may either
be in a hairnet and entirely tucked under your helmet, if you are wearing a
helmet, or in a tidy bun at the base of your neck if you are wearing a hat (black strongly recommended).
Other Stuff Our Team Does
Team Bonding
Apart from being a competitive sports team, we’re also in this to connect with other
horse lovers and make friends. Our team values hanging out together, whether this
means a potluck at Lake Padden or watching nerdy horse movies at someone’s
house--so if you have an idea for a team bonding event or want to host something
at your house, let us know!

Though the school gives us a certain amount of money, and your team dues go into
the team account, we all know that horse riding is an expensive sport. Fundraising is
important to keep our team afloat, so we may host fundraising events throughout the 
year or ask team members to send letters to
friends and family asking for donations.

It also goes without saying that this team values giving back to our community. Throughout
the year, there will be many opportunities to volunteer at various events with the team. In
the past, we’ve been very involved with Animals as Natural Therapy and have also pitched in
at community horse shows! If you have a potential volunteering opportunity that you know
of (it doesn’t have to do with horses or animals!) please let us know!

Of course, nobody can get better at their sport without practice. Part of your team
dues pay for twice-a-week lessons at our coaches’ barns on their horses--which is
awesome. You will be scheduled in a group lesson with 2 to 4 other team members
based around your class and work schedule, and we always organize carpooling
(so don’t worry if you don’t have transportation). It’s crucial that we respect the rules
and policies of our coaches’ barns because they are donating a ton of time, energy,
and horses to this team. Boots and helmets are mandatory at all lessons . If you are
riding english, you will also need breeches or riding tights, and jeans are necessary
for western. Gloves are strongly recommended for everyone, as we ride most
during the winter months! With travel time, tacking up, an hour long lesson, and
putting the horses away/tidying up the barn, plan on your whole lesson endeavor
to take about three hours.


How do I become a member?
We hold a meeting for new members at the beginning of every fall quarter. You must attend this meeting to become a new member and the date will be posted within one week of the beginning of each year. You must also attend tryouts which are usually the weekend after the meeting.

Do I need my own horse?
You do not need your own horse to be on the team. If you have one and want to bring one, our coaches often have space at the barn.

Do I need riding experience?
You do not need riding experience to join the team, we have levels from beginner to advanced.

What type of riding do you do?
Our team competes on the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association circuit which involves hunt seat equitation and western equitation. The top levels of each can compete in jumping and reining respectively. For more information visit the IHSA website: http://www.ihsainc.com

Is it expensive?
Our team as well as IHSA is founded on the premise of being able to afford to ride in college. Shows range from $25-$35 a class, and a normal competition averages two classes. Team dues are $250 per quarter.

What is a Sports Club? 
Sports Clubs are student run sports teams that are required to fund raise and volunteer during the school year and are not scholarship eligible. To see a list of all Western sports clubs visit the student life section of the Western website under Rec Center. http://www.wwu.edu/campusrec/sportclubteams.shtml

Where do you practice and how often?
Practice is held twice a week, at one of our coaches facilities. Both are about 25 min from campus.

Do I need to have a car?
We arrange carpools to lessons, shows and other events. You do not need to have your own car (although members who do have a car and are willing to drive are always welcome).


  1. Wow what a beautifully written info page. I wonder who wrote that, they are so talented.

  2. Excellent information for parents of possible Equestrian Team members - thank you!

  3. how much is board if i do want to bring my horse to college with me?