Although it is technically spring break on the campus of
West Virginia University, members of the
Western Equestrian Team are busily preparing to host – and compete in – the
Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Western Semi-Finals.
The event is set for March 17-18 at the J.W. Ruby Research Farm in Reedsville, West
Virginia, and marks two major milestones for the university and its
equine studies program.
Not only will this be the first time WVU has hosted IHSA Semi-Finals, but the event
will be the first major equine function on the farm since a large-scale revitalization
project began almost three years ago.
In 2015, the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust provided
a $6.7 million gift to transform the equine educational facilities on the 995-acre
farm in Preston County into a new, modern teaching, research and extension center.
“Phase one of the J.W. Ruby Research Farm redevelopment is coming to a close,” said
Crystal Smith, teaching associate professor of animal and nutritional sciences
in the WVU
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. “The horse show
facilities are complete with the addition of a multipurpose building with 48 portable
stalls and a wash rack for visiting horses, a new outdoor arena and additional
parking. The educational center and other weather-dependent site improvements will
be finished up in the next few weeks.”
And she’s more than ready to showcase the changes.
“The IHSA holds three Western Semi-Finals each March to narrow the field of 2,500
intercollegiate western equestrian riders down to 150 top qualifiers who will represent
their schools at the national championships,” she said. “We’re very excited to
welcome more than 90 of those riders to WVU. The hard work and dedication of our
coaches, team members and faculty – as well as improvements to our facilities –
all contributed to our ability to host such a large, visible event.”
According to Smith, IHSA competition is unique.
“Attending teams and horse owners volunteer their horses to be used in the shows,”
she said. Competitors draw a horse at random for their class and quickly have to
get on, adjust to that horse, and show to the best of their ability on a horse
that they may have never ridden before.”
Teams and individual riders qualify for semi-finals by competing in regional championship shows. The winning team and top two individuals from each class at those shows advance to the next level.
Coached by Bobby Dean, owner of Bobby Dean Show Horses near Morgantown, the WVU Western Equestrian Team is a student-run, student-funded club sport through WVU’s Sports Club Federation.
During a regional show last Saturday (March 10), four WVU students qualified to compete
in the semi-finals show. Those students are:
- Kaela Denno, a public health major from Budd Lake, New Jersey
- Paige Everly, a pre-political science major from Amsterdam, Ohio
- Olivia McHale, an animal and nutritional sciences major from Lewisburg, West Virginia
- Erin Wamsley, a health informatics and information management major from Sarver, Pennsylvania
The top four individuals in each riding class and the top three teams at each semi-final
show qualify to compete at the IHSA Nationals scheduled for May 3-6 in Harrisburg,
The show begins at 9 a.m. both days and spectators are welcome. For directions to
the J.W. Ruby Research Farm, visit
The IHSA is the largest and oldest collegiate riding association with over 400 member schools across the United States and Canada. The association 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.
Photo caption: Members of the WVU Western Equestrian Team proudly display the ribbons earned during regional competition in Alfred, New York, March 10, 2018.
CONTACT: Lindsay Willey, Communications Manager, WVU Davis College, 304-293-2381; Lindsay.Willey@mail.wvu.edu