Skidmore's riding team prepares for IHSA Nationals: Two years ago Skidmore won Nationals and now they venture down to Raleigh, NC, to regain the title.

Posted by Lauren Bosche Next week, from May 3rd to the 6th, Skidmore's riding team will head down to Raleigh, North Carolina, to compete in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association's National Championships.

Unlike most other sports offered at Skidmore, riding has a year-round season. Competition generally starts in October and culminates in Nationals in the spring. Skidmore's team of 36 riders is led by Head Coach Cindy Ford and Assistant Coach Belinda Colgan who have helped garner much prestige for Skidmore's riding program.

The riding team has an outstanding competitive record, having won 16 of the past 18 Regional titles and numerous Zone titles as well. The Thoroughbreds have held the IHSA National Hunt Seat Team National Championship five times and the Reserve National Championship twice since 1990.

Skidmore's impressive riding caliber allows the team to compete in an organization that is comparable to Division I, despite Skidmore being a school of Division III athletics. Rather than riding against other Liberty League athletes, Skidmore rides against Zone II equestrians in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA).

The IHSA was founded in 1967 by Bob Cacchione. The organization's website states that its mission is to "[promote] competition for riders of all skill levels, who compete individually and as teams at regional, zone, and national levels." The IHSA provides a unique showing experience, as riders do not need to own a horse to compete. The association was founded with equality in mind, as it asserts that any college student-regardless of his or her financial status or riding level-should be able to horse show in the same capacity as others that are better off.

The IHSA has taken a traditionally individualist sport and turned it into a team sport. When Skidmore competes at away shows, they ride the host team's horses, in lieu of trailering Skidmore's own show horses around the state. Then, when Skidmore hosts a show, all of the visiting riders have a jumping round or a flat class aboard one of Skidmore's horses. One doesn't need to own a horse to compete; on the contrary, Skidmore's team members benefit from riding a variety of horses.

According to the IHSA website, there are 404 riding teams in the IHSA, which are divided into Zones and then further divided into Regions. In the 2011-12 season, 6,468 Hunter Seat riders were registered to compete, while 1,819 Western riders signed on as well.

The IHSA truly tests horsemanship skills, regardless of a rider's background in the sport. A rider's show performance on a foreign horse is incredibly telling of their dedication. Additionally, the IHSA supports thousands of riders in their pursuit to become better horsemen and horsewomen by getting rid of a substantial part of monetary concern and through providing equal opportunities to its riders.

Skidmore heads into this year's National competition with an undefeated record. This season's finale is one to watch. Follow Skidmore Equestrian on Twitter to keep up with the latest news at http://twitter.com/#!/SkidEq

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