Meet Haleigh, an Alfred State College senior.
The Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, or IHSA, offers college student-equestrians a way to compete without having to own their own horse. With both western and hunt seat divisions, the IHSA has been developing young talent for 50 years now by offering friendly college versus college competition. With the IHSA National Finals kicking off today, we wanted to spotlight just a few of the riders who will be making their way to the Kentucky Horse Park in May.
Name: Haleigh Hurd
Year in School: Senior
University Name: Alfred State College
Area of Study: Accounting
Years in IHSA: 2
Nationals Division: Open Reining
Haleigh Hurd says she had dreamed of being able to ride since she could walk, aside from the fact that no one in her family had any history in horses. At the age of 11, she began riding at a local barn which led her to join Alfred University’s IEA team that fall. After riding in horsemanship for two years, she moved onward and upward into reining. For the six years that Haleigh rode with the IEA, she went to Nationals each year. Despite taking her senior year of high school off of riding, her experiences in IEA and her passion for horses led her to join the IHSA team at Alfred State College.
Juggling her school schedule, her time dedicated to the IHSA, and her part time job isn’t always easy, but she always manages to make it work. She manages to squeeze in one to two rides a week in with her coach, Rose Ruffner, in the evenings. “Every practice I have, I go in very open to try whatever it takes to help me be the best I can be,” says Haleigh. She doesn’t let a limiting schedule get in her way.
“IHSA has impacted me tremendously,” she continued. “It has taught me that even though I have worked so hard and tried my best that I might not always be successful and that’s okay but if I keep trying and never give up, I can do great things.” After a challenging start to her season, Haleigh struggled with keeping up her positive mentality, but she persevered and made the best of every situation thrown her way — eventually leading her to her qualifying ride at semi-finals. “Rose always tells me that I don’t give myself enough credit for everything that I have accomplished and I know should, I have been very humble about my success.”
That qualifying ride is Haleigh’s best memory from her IHSA career. Having her family and a close family friend there to cheer her on and celebrate with her over her win made her weekend. “I drew the perfect horse, we had the perfect ride, and out of twelve riders I won. It was a moment I have been waiting and praying for my entire life and I will never forget it,” she said of her weekend at West Texas A&M University.
If you are considering joining an IHSA team, Haleigh is one of many who would encourage you to pursue that goal. She has learned so much, both as an individual and as a member of a team. “I have more confidence from the back of a horse than I do anywhere else, but IHSA has improved that through the experiences I have been able to have.” She encourages each rider to push any fears they might have aside and take the plunge into this amazing experience. “You can learn so much from other riders and coaches and it is just a great overall experience. If you have the opportunity, do not be afraid to try it.”
The Horse Nation family wishes Haleigh and all of the other qualified riders the best of luck at the IHSA National Finals at the beautiful Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. Drop on by May 4-7th to watch some of the country’s young talent show off their years of hard work on horses they have never sat on before. A true test of any rider’s abilities, IHSA Nationals offers both western and hunt seat competitors at the top of their game a place to compete without owning their own horse.
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