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Saddle up: WVU set to host intercollegiate equine event

WVU Western Equestrian Team

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:

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, Pennsylvania.

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;