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, Alfred University Blogger Ellie Woznica shares an open letter on a sensitive subject. From Ellie:
Dear IHSA Judges,
I started showing the A circuit when I was eight years old and growing up in that world, I realized fairly quickly that our sport has a preferred type—a type I do not fit. Once my garter-and-bows cuteness stage wore off and I moved from a medium pony to a 16hh horse, I watched as my tall friends with big-bodied warmbloods placed higher than my fellow short, chubby competitors on less expensive horses.
This was not by any means the case at every show, but I did start to notice a trend: elegant, thin bodies and fancy horses were the ideal equestrian body and mount—neither of which I had. For this reason, I stopped competing in the equitation ring and turned my focus to hunters and jumpers where I thought I could hide my body under shadbellies and long sleeved polos and where I knew my horse would shine. It wasn’t until starting my IHSA career that I stepped back into the arena as an equitation rider.
I was nervous, but excited by the prospect of a new, even playing field. This fairness is one of the reasons I love IHSA. It’s all in the ability to ride a new horse as well as you can, not how well-proportioned you and the horse look as a pair. Standing at a whopping 5 feet 2 inches, I look minuscule on most of the open horses that pass 16.2 hands. In the opposite case, some of my taller teammates have drawn large ponies with no height limits, making them appear abnormally tall to my freakishly short.
However, you judge us on the quality of our equitation and our ability to ride despite any awkwardness that arises from random horse-and-rider pairings. This is not something I imagine to be easy to overlook, and growing up I often heard spectators and horse show moms talk about how nice of a pair a horse and rider made, how their bodies seemed to complement each other in a way that doesn’t always happen when we are randomly drawing horses from a hat.
To say my experience in IHSA has been great would be an understatement. The horses, my teammates and my coaches, Peggy and Kelsey, have made my time in IHSA an absolute blast. However, I think it is very important to thank you for my happiness within this program.
Thank you for seeing talent and ability in all rider types, not just the type that now dominates the equitation ring, the elegant physique my mother passed onto my little sister, but unfortunately not to me. Thank you for reminding me that equitation doesn’t have a set body standard. Thank you for judging my teammates and me fairly by our ability to ride, to lay down a nice course or flat round, and not by comparing our bodies to a specific mold.
Thank you, IHSA judges, for seeing the equitation rider in us all and judging all shapes and sizes fairly.
See you in the ring,