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MTSU Hosts IHSA Western Semi-Finals


By LaCresha Kolba

The Western Semi-Finals is one of the most important shows of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) show season. This is how the IHSA narrows a field of roughly 2500 Intercollegiate Western riders down to 150 top qualifiers who then ride and represent their school at the annual IHSA National Championships.

 This year the show was hosted by Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and Zone 5 Region 1; judges were Debra Jones-Wright of Georgia and Tyler Crouse of Missouri. The show, sponsored by the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA), was held March 19-20, 2016 at the Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, TN.  With 246 riders on 36 teams from nine regions throughout the United States, MTSU had their hands full managing and coordinating 48 horses during the two days of classes. The top four teams and the top three riders who placed this weekend will head to Nationals in Lexington, Kentucky, May 5-8, 2016.  According to MTSU Equestrian Coach, Anne Brzezicki, “The pressure here needs to be high, because if they can’t handle it here, they won’t be able to handle it at Nationals.  Nationals is tough and brings the best riders in their division.”

MTSU brought their share of tough riders. The MTSU Western team was represented by: Leah Piper riding in Individual Open Reining, Morgan Bowie riding in the team Advanced division, Lori Grimes riding in Individual Intermediate, Ryelee Jordan riding in team Novice Intermediate, and Chelsey Lynch riding in team Beginner. Some of these individuals were strong riders throughout the season, whereas others had to work very hard to get to this level this year.

MTSU student Lauren King rode in the Open Individual Reining at this show. Lauren came to the MTSU Equestrian Team as a transfer from UT-Chattanooga.  Throughout this season she made huge progress and worked extremely hard to obtain her spot at the Semi-Finals.

Chelsey Lynch came to the MTSU Equestrian Team from the Walking Horse world.  She learned to ride Hunt Seat and Western, and she was here showing the results of her hard work at Semi Finals.

The horses used at this event were the MTSU school horses, and additional horses brought from local alumni, private owners, and local trainers.  MTSU Equestrian Coach Anne was thrilled to have horses also brought in from Moorehead State, Alfred University in New York, and St. Andrews University.  Several horses were used more than others because of  their personality, background, and experience. Anne worked incredibly hard to make sure all horses had the opportunity to rest so they could perform their best for the competitors.  It was quite apparent the horses care came first!

With everyone in their place and a place for everyone, it didn’t mean hiccups were avoided throughout the weekend.  One surprise came as riders in the Individual Novice Horsemanship Section B were asked to line up and face the judges. It was just a few seconds later when a show steward was called.  A bit had broken and a horse was waltzing through the arena with its bridle dangling from its head and neck. While the startled rider used her limited rein control to direct her mount, Anne was notified and she bounded to the arena with a different bridle. Thankfully, the broken bridle surprise alleviated some of the nerves and stress.  While the class got back to hear the announcement of the placings, Anne laughed with her fellow show staff at the broken bridle, while thankful it happened at the end of the class so no serious harm was done.

All who attended were appreciative of the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) for sponsoring the show. Anne commented about how the IHSA Semi Finals would not be possible without the NRHA’s support.  She continued to express her gratitude of their recognition of equestrian education. 

The NRHA Manager of Marketing and Communication was on site, and is no stranger to MTSU or the Miller Coliseum. Hayley Eberle is an MTSU and IHSA alumni member.  An internship with the NRHA lead to the opportunity to apply for a position which came open after her internship ended.  This led to her career with the NRHA, which allows her to travel to the events they sponsor to share information about the organization. Hayley spoke of how the NRHA strives to inform people about what the NRHA is, what they do, and make their presence warm and welcoming, as they offer a level of riding for everyone from beginner to professional.  The NRHA has been supporting the IHSA for many years. They also support Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA), which is the middle school version of the IHSA.

Ring Stewards for the show were Andrea Rego and Casey Henry.  The Announcer was Cori Gould.  The Draw Steward was Becky Huddleston. The IHSA Coach for Tennessee Tech and Show Stewards were: Carla Wennberg, Amanda Love, Erin LeCompte, and Sherry Cashman. 

For more information about the 2016 Western Semi-Finals, visit Check out the MTSU Equestrian Team at:

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