College Equestrian Teams Recruit Freshmen Riders

Adrian College included in Oakland Press article.

Picture Above: Coach Emily Nett of Adrian College gives last minute instruction to team captain, Emily Pobuda, 19, of Clarkston at an Intercollegiate Horse Show.

By Sharon Green, courtesy of the Oakland Press 

ADRIAN, Mich.—The search is on. Many of the college equestrian team coaching staff are on the road recruiting freshmen riders for their teams. With college doors now open for fall, finding students that are committed to a college equestrian varsity sport program can be a challenge.

“This is my fourth year coaching,” said Emily Nett of Adrian College. “Like any sport or activity in college, riding helps students continue their passion for riding and competing. Riding at Adrian College is much more intense than high school.”

Nett travels across Michigan, Ohio and Indiana to horse shows on weekends to talk with high school riders, particularly seniors for her program.

Competitive teams belong to the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) that was established in 1967 at the Faileigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. The program has grown to include 37 regions and 8 zones with close to 400 colleges across 45 states including Michigan and represents more than 9000 riders. It was founded on the principle that students, regardless of their riding ability or financial status, can participate.

“I strive to maintain a small team as this gives our riders more attention from our instructors, more focus and time in the saddle and allows them to compete more,” explained Nett. “As a varsity sport, it allows the riders to have full benefits of the Athletic Department.”

Riders, like Emily Pobuda, 19, of Clarkston, do not ride their own personal horse or use personal tack for the competition. Instead, they are introduced to a horse provided by the host college just prior to the event, leaving no time to practice and little time to form a bond with their mount.

Pobuda, who is studying business and political science, has been named Captain of the Hunt Seat Team at Adrian. She chose Adrian’s program because she wanted to attend a small, private school that would allow her to further her riding experience with a competitive edge at the college level.

“I looked at several schools in state and out of state and finally chose Adrian College,” explained Pobuda. “Their team was small but growing and I saw potential growth for me as a rider.” She believes that equestrian team sports are a good way of transferring one’s extra energy into something productive. “It is also a chance to make a bond with a horse you have never ridden before around a course you have never jumped before and where you have to earn each others respect quickly.”

Pobuda believes that the leadership skills she has developed will help her communicate better with others and also will make her a more well-rounded person. “I have found that combining your efforts with a 1200 pound animal is a great confidence builder.”

The program at U of M was formed in 1992. “This is my 15th year being coach,” said Jennifer Blades. “Our team consists of 50 to 60 members.” The students practice one or two times a week and many squeeze in a weekly lesson. “It’s not a big time commitment. Students need the riding to keep themselves sane.” U of M continues to finish in the top schools winning region competitions. “We welcome all levels of riding from walk-trot through open,” explained Blades. “Most of the people on the team build life-long close friendships.

The Equestrian Club at Oakland University has qualified for the IHSA National Championships on several occasions. “Given the historic equine history of OU’s founder, Matilda Dodge, it only makes sense that there is an equestrian team at this school,” said Coach Christopher Ewing. “Each year we are proud to have riders of all levels consistently place high in ribbons.” The OU team trains at the Berwyck Saddle Club in Milford.

South Eastern Michigan college level equestrian sport programs include the following:

Adrian College – Emily Nett, 586-246-9662,

Albion College – Randi Gardner,

MSU—Leesa Massman,

Oakland University – Christopher Ewing, 248-470-4882,

U of M—Jennifer Blades, 313-938-9221,

Other schools in Michigan that promote equestrian sports include Alma College, Calvin College, Central Michigan University, Ferris State University, Grand Valley University, Hillsdale College and Western Michigan University.

“Balancing practice, long weekend meets and school work is part of the challenge of being on the team,” added Pobuda. “I know I can use the skills I have developed in the future and be able to look back and say, “I learned that from the Equestrian Team.”

FYI – For more information, visit the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association at

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