Dirt was kicked up and stomped on as Southeast Missouri State University's Equestrian Team hosted their first-ever home meet at Fox Run Stables in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
March 10 was the first day of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association show. Southeast senior Kristie Miller, who has been riding horses on and off her whole life, has been with the Equestrian Team for two years.
"An IHSA show is a lot different than a normal horse show," Miller said. "The biggest difference is that riders do not bring their own horses. Instead, the school hosting the show provides the horses. The idea behind the found of the IHSA is that any person who wishes to compete in horse showing should be able to no matter what their experience, or financial status."
70 riders came from seven different schools in surrounding areas, including Washington University in St. Louis and Missouri State University, to compete.
The Southeast Equestrian Team as well as Fox Run Stables owner, Trish Lafoe had been preparing for the show for six months.
"In order to prepare for the show, we had to condition our horses to a variety of different changes in their environment," Lafoe said. "Adding bleachers, adding stalls, bringing in horses that they don't know in order to have enough to offer the riders, [and] getting them used to a more elaborate course with flowers and big jumps."
In preparation of the draw, riders arrived between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. to watch and take notes as volunteer riders "schooled" 23 horses, riding them around the indoor arena and taking them over jumps. Riders then drew the name of the horse they would ride in the fences class out of a hat.
"The college kids are not allowed to handle, tack up, groom, pet, touch their horse in any way that they are going to ride," Lafoe said. "They see it from the mounting block, they hop on and their coach adjusts the stirrups, and then they go into the ring cold."
Alumni rider from Washington University in St. Louis Kate Rothman competed in the alumni fence class. She drew a horse named Griffin and was overall pleased with her ride.
"I was happy with it," Rothman said. "[Griffin] was really nice. It's always sort of, a little bit of luck of the draw, and I got a lucky draw, so it was good."
Southeast senior Alex Wolf has been riding for six years, and has been with the Southeast Equestrian Team for two years. She competed in the novice fence class.
"I like jumping a lot because it's a lot of excitement, but I forget to breathe sometimes," Wolf said. "I hold my breath until the very end."
On March 11 riders returned to Fox Run Stables and competed with a different judge, this counting as a separate IHSA show. Lafoe said hosting an IHSA show is a lot of paperwork, organization and work, including calling in favors and getting the riders and horses prepared.
"The girls are wonderful, it's great to see young people working with horses, and having the opportunity to compete on the college level," Lafoe said. "It's all worth it."
The results of the two shows can be found at wix.com/redhawkequestrian/team.