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University of Kentucky Equestrian Team Riders are Headed to Nationals

By Sara Tracy

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 5, 2007) – The University of Kentucky Equestrian Team is celebrating this week as stock seat individual rider Lacey Werczynski and the entire hunt seat team are headed to the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association’s (IHSA) national competition in Springfield, Mass., May 3-6.

Throughout the year, Werczynski competed in Open Reining and Horsemanship, which is the highest level of stock seat competition at the college level. Werczynski and teammate Christi Burrington represented UK in Pomona, Calif., during the “super-zone” semifinals March 24-25. There were 28 schools competing to advance to nationals, yet only the top four in each class could advance. (The regional competition only allows the top two riders to advance to the semifinal competition.) There are only three super-zone shows across the U.S., and each of the schools competing is sent to one of the three areas, Pomona, Findlay, Ohio, and Murfreesboro, Tenn. Werczynski competed in Open Individual Horsemanship in Pomona at the semifinals, and won in a class against 13 other riders, qualifying her for nationals.

“I'm honored and thrilled to be able to compete at nationals. It's a difficult road. You never know which horses you might pull, good or bad, and I have really had to ride and practice hard to get to this point, but it was all worth it,” said Werczynski. “Our coach spent long hours helping me practice, and gave me all the encouragement in the world to succeed. It becomes pretty nerve-racking to compete at this level. I couldn’t have done this without the support of my friends, teammates, my coach Bennie Sargent, all of our sponsors and our advisor Dr. Coleman. These people were instrumental in making this all possible.”

In addition to Werczynski, UK’s only rider who will attend nationals in individual competition, UK’s hunt seat team has also qualified for team competition. Although there were no competitors from the hunt seat team who qualified for individual competition, the team as a whole qualified for nationals as one of the top two teams in the zone competition during the weekend of March 31-April 1.

UK’s hunt seat team consists of Meghan Blackburn, Louise Bowden, Diana Glenney, Aleshia Mathis, Molly Peyton, Kathleen Reed, Callie Schott and Becka Wichard. For some of these riders, this won’t be the first national competition they’ve attended on behalf of UK. Reed won nationals in her hunt seat class in 2006. Glenney has attended nationals the past four years and placed in the top 10 each year.

In addition to riding as part of the UK team, Schott will also be competing in the Cacchione Cup Championship. Schott qualified for this prestigious competition by being the top rider in the region for combined Open Flat and Open Fence points. This competition is composed of a jumping portion and an equitation portion, followed by a test of the top riders at the conclusion of those phases.

According to faculty advisor Bob Coleman, the team’s success is a direct reflection of the hard work and time spent by the team’s two coaches, Michelle Zimmer and Bennie Sargent. The hunt seat team is coached by Zimmer and rides at Robert Murphy Stables. The stock seat team is coached by Sargent and rides at High Point Equestrian Center.

"I am truly excited for our team and individual riders. They have all worked extremely hard to get this far and will be an outstanding representation of the quality of the University of Kentucky's Equestrian team at the IHSA Nationals," said Megan Carter, UK Equestrian Team president.

Established in 1967, IHSA encompasses 29 regions in nine zones and has more than 300 member colleges in 45 states and Canada, representing more than 6,500 riders in both hunt seat equitation, western horsemanship and reining. In IHSA, horses are provided by the university hosting the horse show. Riders randomly draw a horse’s name directly before competing. They are then required to compete on the unfamiliar horse, without a chance to practice before they are judged. According to the IHSA web site, “The organization was founded on the principle that any college student should be able to participate in horse shows, regardless of his or her financial status or riding level…The objective of IHSA competition is to offer the opportunity to riders in their first years of riding as well as to students with show experience. Eliminating the expense of shipping or even owning horses puts IHSA competitions within reach of many who would otherwise miss the equestrian experience.”

The UK Equestrian Team, a College of Agriculture club team, has approximately 60 riders. UK competes in Zone 6, Region 2. Region 2 is made up of Miami University of Ohio, Midway College, Morehead State University, Ohio University Southern, University of Cincinnati, University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, Wilmington College and Xavier University.

For more information about IHSA, please visit: http://www.ihsainc.com/


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