Welcome to a new series on Jumper Nation featuring bloggers from around the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) who are kindly willing to share the ins and outs of being college students, athletes, and horse show junkies 365 days a year. Sure beats the britches off of being in a sorority, if you ask us! For a crash course in what the IHSA is all about,click here. If you’re a current IHSA competitor who would like to contribute, please email our editor at email@example.com.
This week, we meet new blogger Chloe Bellerive from Keedysville, Maryland. She is a sophomore at the University of Kentucky and a member of their IHSA hunt seat team. Chloe tells us how she started out and what that first crazy year is like in collegiate competition!
After looking at several universities, it was clear University of Kentucky was a great fit for me for many reasons. I want to be an Equine Surgeon, which makes the location ideal for experience, exposure and intern opportunities. I also can receive a bachelor of science degree in Equine Science, while paying in-state tuition rate due to Academic Common Market, which made it even more appealing. And, who wouldn’t want to live in Lexington and be a Wildcat, right?
I always knew I wanted to ride while at school. I wasn’t able to ride IEA (the high school equivalent of IHSA) as it was just up-and-coming in my area, so I really looked forward to being able to experience this while at school. I really had no interest in being part of a sorority but felt being a part of a team and sharing the enthusiasm for the sport with other students who were part of the Equine Studies seemed like an incredible opportunity for great experiences, memories and being part of a ‘family’ group.
To be honest, it was a little intimidating, especially at tryouts the first year. I had no idea what to expect, didn’t know anyone and had really no background or experience with this. Truly felt like a little fish in a big sea. I didn’t have an extensive show record, which made me eligible for the more competitive novice division. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I was chosen to represent University of Kentucky’s equestrian team as a Wildcat.
We had a great year, were Regional Champions as a team, I qualified for Regionals and Zones with first place finishes in Novice Flat and was chosen to represent the team for Novice Over Fences. Although we are a large team — which allows for the opportunity for many to compete at Regionals and Zones — because of placing qualifications, only first and second place are able to move forward. This sometimes means you are competing for a spot against your fellow teammates.
I honestly didn’t know how I felt about this at first. We are competing as a team but you are also competing individually, but I have to say our team is so supportive of one another, it really has been incredibly rewarding. I placed third in Novice Flat at zones which meant I didn’t qualify for Nationals, and although I placed first in Novice Over Fences for our team, we had a few hard draws and didn’t make it to Nationals as a team, either. Although disappointing after all the hard work and effort, we still had an incredible year and I so looked forward to coming back for another round in 2017!
Fast forward to this year, our 2017/2018 season. Tryouts again, for EVERYONE! Each year the dynamics of our team change dramatically by 50 percent or more. Each year we lose team members as they age out, study abroad, transfer or don’t return due to schooling requirements and schedules. I had become so close to so many, and you honestly really look forward to competing with them.
If I said I wasn’t nervous about trying out again, I’d be lying. Although I had a good year, even earning High Point rider twice and Reserve High Point rider once, I was now competing for Intermediate flat and still the more competitive Novice Over Fences division. So I was ecstatic to have earned my spot on the team again. I am also thrilled to be serving as a Ag Council officer and Fundraising committee member while also helping in other roles.
We welcomed many new members, more than 60 percent being new, but have already grown tight as a Wildcat family. We are already going strong: Out of six shows, we earned Champion at three, Reserve at one and came close at two others. Our riders and divisions have changed but clearly we are up for the challenge.
I have had a strong season thus far as well, earning High Point rider at three, and qualifying at another which ended with my teammates earning the honors after a ride-off between four of us. Talk about a fun and memorable experience!
I am now qualified for Regionals for Novice Over Fences and Intermediate Flat so I am riding in Open Flat and Intermediate Over Fences when we begin the second half of the season after Winter Break. Although this thrills me, I am also so proud of how far we have evolved as a team after so many changes, how supportive we have been and I want to congratulate my fellow team mates who have also qualified for Regionals:
Sam Geller, Alexa Scortino, Ana Zenter, Blair Dever, Mackenzie Mentzer, Meredith Frank, Sarah Holladay, Ellie Everhart, Casey Mena, Lizzi Videtta, Alex Rojo, and Ashley Rowe
And while all that is exciting, I have to give a shout out to Rachel Dunay. She joined our team to fill our Walk/Trot position knowing absolutely nothing about horses and had never ridden before. Words cannot express how much we all love her and every bit of effort she puts forth with riding and getting up at O’Dark thirty, freezing in the cold and wind just to be part of our Wildcat Family. Watching how far she has come and seeing everyone join around the ring to support and cheer her on is what it is all about!