Riding at UMW

All riding students are eligible to try out for the varsity intercollegiate equestrian team. Team selections are held at the beginning of each academic semester and students are chosen based on their ability to perform at different levels. In order to compete as a member of the twenty-five member team, riders are needed to fill positions in each of the following divisions, from most to least experienced: Open, Intermediate, Novice, Walk-trot-canter, and walk-trot. In 14 of the past 17 years, UMW has sent at least one rider to the national championships in one or more of these divisions, with the team finishing seventh in the nation in 2008.


The varsity riding team takes part in eight shows each year, in addition to regional, zone, and national championship competitions. The University of Mary Washington is a member of Region 4, Zone IV of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, along with Christopher Newport University, College of William and Mary, Longwood University, Randolph-Macon College, and the University of Richmond.

The IHSA, founded in 1967, promotes competition for riders of all skill levels who compete individually and as teams at regional, zone, and national shows. The objective of the IHSA competition is to offer opportunities to newcomers and experienced riders. As a recognized member of the American Horse Show Association (AHSA), IHSA involves itself with the top professionals in the field. Only AHSA-recognized judges are used for IHSA competitions. The competition is unique in that no rider may use his or her own horse. All riders are mounted on a horse by the host school, with each horse being drawn by lot. The use of personal tack is not allowed and schooling is not permitted.

Class levels range from walk-trot, for first year competitors, to the open division, for the experienced rider. In addition to qualifying individuals for national competition, each region is represented by its high-point team to vie for the coveted Miller’s Cup. Mary Washington was the reserve high-point team at the 1988 national show, finished fourth in 1994, and seventh in 2008.

As always, competition for the riding team will be fierce, with an excellent group of riders competing for spots. In keeping with an excellent tradition in equestrian, and one of the few college programs that is offered as a varsity sport, the equestrian team will look to add another exciting chapter to the University of Mary Washington record book. With the full backing of the community, school and administration, look for the Eagles to return to the top of the region and zone standings again next season, with an eye on a repeat trip to the national show.