How to Start a Team

IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Show Association) recognizes and welcomes all teams regardless of their status as a club, club sport, or NCAA recognized varsity team.  

Locate Your IHSA Zone and Region

Go to the IHSA website at to locate your IHSA Zone and Region and contact the Regional President.  This person will steer you through the process of getting started and will provide you with leadership and guidance throughout the year. Depending on the Region, there may be a waiting list of teams wanting to join or there may be an immediate opening. If you cannot locate your IHSA Zone and Region or where you can compete, contact the IHSA National Secretary, Patte Zumbrun at  

Talk to Your College or University

Contact the appropriate representative at your school and alert them of your intentions.  This person may be your athletic director, head of club sports, or a faculty advisor.  Allow them to steer you to the appropriate department where your team can find the best avenue for support.  A club is generally run through your student government and a club sport is generally run through your athletic intramural department. Some teams form with the intent of gaining varsity status. Meet with your school’s athletic director to learn about these requirements.

Your team’s ability to be recognized by your school as a viable group will help you conduct your team in an organized fashion, attract new team members, receive assistance with funding, fundraising, team transportation, and publicity.  

Find an Official College Representative (Advisor)

Your team is required to have an official contact with the college called the “college designated representative” or “advisor”. This person must work in an official capacity at the college -- faculty, staff, or administration, and may be from any department on campus. He or she connects your team to the college or university and to the IHSA. Once you have found a representative, be sure communication is established between the college official and the coach that will travel with your team.  

Find A Coach

You team is required to have a coach who is a professional trainer or riding instructor that is contracted to work with the team at a riding facility on or off-campus. (In some cases where there is an established college riding program, the coach may also act as the advisor).  The coach must be at least 21 years of age, must carry professional liability insurance, must join IHSA, and take an on-line rules test each year.  It is important to have the entire team training together with one coach to provide continuity.

It is the responsibility of every coach to follow the rules stated in the current IHSA Rule Book and to provide the necessary leadership to insure their rider(s) receive adequate instruction and guidance to participate in an IHSA horse show.  A coach must assume responsibility for their rider’s safety and their understanding of good horsemanship, as well as their rider’s conduct and understanding of good sportsmanship.  It is strongly recommended that coaches / instructors actively seek on-going education and/or certification by nationally recognized organizations such as ARIACP (American Riding Instructor Certification Program), USHJA (United States Hunter-Jumper Association) Trainer’s Certification Program, and CHA (Certified Horsemanship Association).  

How to Join the IHSA

  • Check out the IHSA Website for information on how to start a team and more!

  • Meet your Regional President! New teams must be approved by the Regional President before they can officially join the IHSA. This is to ensure a new team has been formally introduced to the IHSA format by the Regional President, and has had an opportunity to observe one or more IHSA competitions. Your Regional President will give you specific information regarding your region, the competition schedule, and deadlines for submitting paperwork.

  • Once your Regional President welcomes your school into the Region, you can start the process of joining IHSA. Visit the Official IHSA Website at to access all information that you will need to start a new team; enroll your college or university; and enroll your individual team members. First, click on “Membership”, and then click on “New Coach Application” to sign up for an account. Your account will become active once your Region President approves your request.  

  • Print out the IHSA Rule Book and the “Quick-Start Guide” and place it in a binder for future reference!

  • Once approved, you may complete the Team Membership application. This form can be completed by the official coach or the designated administrative representative.  When filling out the form for the first time, you will be asked to choose a username and password. This username and password will be specific to the coach of the team. The coach will use this username to gain access to specific personal information about team members so it must not be given out to anyone else other than possibly a designated administrative assistant. Each team may have up to three coach accounts: Head Coach, Hunter Seat, and Western, with their own individual access if desired.  If you apply for team membership and you do not receive your team application confirmation, please contact the website at

  • Once the team application is completed your students can join IHSA as individual members. They will go to the website and click on “Membership” then, “Individual Membership”.  They will be prompted to join as a new or returning member. New members will fill out the Rider Placement Form.  Please read the instructions that follow regarding rider placement!

  • After all of your students have joined print out the rider eligibility form from the coaches area of the IHSA website.  Your students who joined will automatically be listed. Have your college or university registrar, bursar, or qualified administration official verify each student is a full-time undergraduate in good academic standing (see Rule 1201).This must be done at the beginning of EACH term. Send this form to your Regional President by their given deadline.

Additional Expenses

In addition to the annual college/university membership fee of $250 and the individual student membership fee of $40 for a riding discipline or $60 for a combined discipline, there are other expenses to consider.

Entry Fees

Entry fees vary between regions.  You can expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $45 per class to enter a rider.  A hunt seat rider can compete in one class on the flat and one class over fences at each show, or one western horsemanship class (open riders can also do reining).  Many regions combine two shows into a weekend to reduce travel expenses.  Some regions combine hunt seat and western shows into one day or one weekend.  When you receive a prize list for a scheduled IHSA horse show, allow time to requisition a check from your school to cover all of the entry fees, plus any additional funds needed for travel expenses.  Most horse shows are held on weekends, but some may be held during the week.  


Depending on your Region’s location, travel expenses can be a considerable part of your team’s budget.  If you are a club team, fundraising will be a key component to insure your team will meet expenses.  Many teams travel in a van from the college motor pool, or in a charter bus, while others drive personal cars and share the cost of gas and tolls. Some horse shows may require an overnight stay so remember to include the cost of one or two nights in a hotel.

Riding Facility/Lessons

Many teams have the luxury of riding at a campus facility with a college appointed coach. A good number of teams will approach a local stable and make arrangements for a discounted group lesson rate with a local professional trainer or instructor. When this is the case, you may want to have a renewable one-year contract, either written or oral, to outline the expectations of the agreement.  It is important to have a good working relationship with the facility owner/operator and instructor/coach.  You also want to consider the cost of riding lessons or any other fees that may be involved.  Most importantly, your team members will need riding instruction by a qualified instructor or coach on a regular basis.


The IHSA has purchases a blanket horse show liability policy that covers all entrants, spectators, and horse providers, as well as the association, for liability issues that occur at an official IHSA horse show.  Some teams carry additional liability insurance either independently or through their school.  All coaches are required to have professional liability insurance coverage. For more information on insurance specifics, e-mail Patte Zumbrun, the IHSA National Secretary at


Your team members need appropriate riding attire in the discipline in which they compete (Rule 4704). You can expect your riders to purchase their own show attire although you may find some riders are willing to share clothing or boots.  Wearing properly fitting horse show attire is important!  In addition to riding attire, most teams purchase jackets, vests, sweatshirts, hats etc. with their school name/colors to represent their school.   All riders must comply with state laws regarding mandatory helmets for equestrian use.


Many college teams are self-supporting unless they receive funding as a varsity sport. Teams raise a significant part of their travel expenses through fund-raising activities and pay for the remainder out of their own pockets.  By forming a club or becoming a club sport, you will be in a good position to request funding from your school.  If your team is active, growing, and successful, keeping a good relationship with your school’s administration and/or athletic department is essential.  

A Collegiate Horse Show

The IHSA was developed to allow student riders of any skill level or economic background to compete in a collegiate horse show at their own level of experience. A first-time team member will complete an IHSA Placement form to determine the division in which they are eligible to compete.  Divisions range from walk-trot to open in four disciplines---hunter seat equitation, hunter seat equitation over fences, western horsemanship and reining. College horse shows are like "meets", with all teams from the region invited to compete against each other simultaneously. Each region will offer anywhere from 6-8 horse regular season horse shows per year.  All IHSA shows are judged by USEF Hunter Seat Equitation approved judges or AQHA judges for western horsemanship and reining.

Horses and Tack

In each region, all attending colleges ride horses provided from the host school, although some schools may provide additional mounts when needed.  The host school provides the tack and equipment for each horse.  Each competitor draws for their mount before their entered class.  Since no schooling is allowed, the host college provides a “horse description list” to give the rider helpful hints about the horse’s way of going. The rider simply mounts; adjust stirrups, and rides before the judge!

General Horse Show Protocol:

  • Enter your Region’s horse show per the prize list/website instructions.

  • Represent your school in the most professional manner possible.

  • Arrive at the horse show with your team to the show grounds to observe any schooling that may take place.  Attend the coaches meeting at the designated time to represent your team and to fill out the necessary paperwork. Have payments for full entries either by check or cash ready and payable to the correct person or school.

  • Fill out the “Point Rider Sheet” before the official draw for horses.  You will designate a point rider for each division.  You will designate a point rider for each division (only one rider for class 2B or 2A or 12B or 12A, not both).

  • The draw will be held either before or during the show.  Know your rider’s height/weight.

  • Check the official program for accuracy to be sure your riders have been entered correctly.

  • Walk the course(s) with your students at the designated time.

  • Look at the horse description list to see what aids accompany the horse your rider has drawn. Make sure you find the horse before your rider’s class in plenty of time before mounting is allowed. The option to use any of the suggested aids is provided by the horse provider and only as stated on the horse description sheet.  The horse provider may make any changes in these options at any time during the competition. You as a coach may also choose not to use suggested aids, if you don’t feel they are safe for your rider.

  • If any tack needs adjusting ask the horse handler or horse provider to make the adjustments if they deem it necessary. A visiting coach or rider is NOT allowed to adjust the horse’s tack or equipment.

  • Remind your students to be polite to the horse handler and refrain from any negative comments regarding the horse, tack, or facility.  Be gracious and appreciative at all times.

  • Be sure your students understand the class protocol per IHSA rules and are familiar with the USEF and AQHA Tests that may be asked in their respective division.

  • Spurs provided by the horse provider are allowed in Hunter Seat Advanced Walk-Trot-Canter, Novice, Alumni, Intermediate, and Open. Each horse provider will determine which horse is a “spur option”

  • Crops are allowed in all levels in hunter seat as noted on the horse description list and are provided by the rider

  • Non-roweled ball spurs are allowed in Western Horsemanship Intermediate II, Novice, Alumni, and Advanced Western Horsemanship where non-roweled ball spurs are permitted when recommended by the horse provider or designee and approved by show management. Western exhibitors may provide their own non-roweled ball spurs

  • In addition to non-roweled ball spurs, roweled spurs are allowed in Open Horsemanship, Open Reining, and Alumni Reining classes on the advice of the horse provider.

  • Roweled spurs must not be “rock grinders” and must be Steward-approved before the class

  • Remember: a horse may be added or removed from the Spur/Crop list at any time during a show if the horse provider sees it is in the best interest of the horse

Individual Point Keeping

The president college maintains a database of individual points and team standings, or elects a regional point keeper.

1st Place 7 points

2nd Place 5 points

3rd Place 4 points

4th Place 3 points

5th Place 2 points

6th Place 1 point

  • Individuals start at zero when first starting IHSA competition, but carry over points each year until they qualify for the next division by earning 36 points.  When they earn 36 points they qualify for Regionals.

  • Important! If a rider qualifies out of their division, do not automatically assume they are safe to compete at the next higher division. It is a judgment call and the rider’s safety should be the primary consideration.

  • Riders may only ride in Walk Trot for two years.  They must advance to Beginner WTC/Intermediate I no matter how many points they have acquired. They will not advance to Regionals or Semi-Finals unless they receive 36 points.

  • Riders who begin showing in a beginner section (2a and 12A) must move to the advance section (2B and 12B) when they have accumulated 18 or more points. All previous points earned are carried over within the class from the beginner to advanced sections. Riders are qualified for Regionals once they have earned a total of 36 points in class 2B or 12B.

  • Open Flat/Open Fences/Open Western/Open Reining and Alumni riders start from “zero” each year and qualify for Regionals when they acquire 28 points in one season

  • The Regional Horse Show determines which individual riders will advance to Zones or Semi-Finals in each division.

  • Riders that place first or second at Zones and/or and riders that place first through fourth at Semi-Finals qualify for Nationals as an individual competitor.

  • Open Flat/Open Fences/Open Western/Open Reining and Alumni riders start from “zero” each year and qualify for Regionals when they acquire 28 points in one season

  • The Regional High Point Rider is determined by keeping aggregate point totals earned by riders in Classes 7 and 8 for Hunter Seat, and Classes 15 and 16 for Western Horsemanship.  In order for the Hunter Seat Regional High Point Rider to advance to Zones or Nationals, they must also qualify for Regionals as an Individual in Class 8, Open Fences.  The Hunter Seat Regional High Point Rider, if eligible, is the only rider that may represent their Region in the USEF/Cacchione Cup and no other rider may be substituted.

  • All points recorded by the President College will become final and not subject to protest at the close of each show season; therefore any adjustments or corrections must be made before the last show of each season.

Team Point Keeping

  • Each year, teams begin with “0” points.

  • At each show, team points are tabulated from the “Point Rider Sheets”.  The lowest score is dropped in Hunter Seat Shows to determine the winner. This rule only applies to full teams that have a point rider designated in each division. Note: you can only designate one point rider for either class 2A OR 2B)

  • Western shows do not drop the lowest score.

  • The team with the highest points at the end of the day is Champion Team.

  • The team with the second highest points at the end of the day is Reserve Champion Team.

  • At the end of the season, each Regional Champion College for Hunter Seat shall compete at the Zone Horse Show for the Zone Champion College title.  The top two hunter seat teams will advance in each Zone.  Each Regional Champion college for Western shall compete at one of three Western Semi-Finals, from which the top three teams will be determined for entry to the National Horse Show.

IHSA Organizational Structure

The IHSA was founded in 1967 by Bob Cacchione, a student rider at Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey. Half-dozen colleges attended shows the first year in the New York metro area, before Bob named a Board of Directors and incorporated his association. Mr. Cacchione is the Executive Director of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association and maintains an active leadership role.  

Where the IHSA Exists

From that first group of colleges, the association expanded in all directions with the formation of new regions of competition. Currently the IHSA is divided into 9 zones with 30+ Regions in the United States and Canada and there are 373 college teams with 8,000+ riders involved in IHSA competition.

Regional Presidents

In each region, coaches elect a Regional President every two years. The president college is responsible for all regional records, organization and planning, and acts as liaison between the colleges of that region and the association. The regional president is the best person to answer your questions and offer advice, and will be the person most directly involved in helping you to establish a new team at your institution.

National Board of Directors

The IHSA is governed by a National Board of Directors, which consists of every Regional President, plus the National Executive Committee, and several Directors at Large. The National Board meets in June and again in January each year, to set national policies, make rule changes, and develop new programs within the association. The Executive Committee of the Board of Directors consists of the Executive Director, National Vice President, National Secretary, National Treasurer, and the National Steward plus two rotating Zone Chairmen, and is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the association and its policies.