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Wisconsin Riders Travel to Represent the United States at World Collegiate Finals

From left to right: Sarah Pollock, Tess Fortune, and Lauren Zappatelli ride for the U.S. in Drobak, Norway.

Most college students in the United States are familiar with the IHSA, Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, which is a league made up of collegiate riding teams that have schedule horse shows which they attend and compete against each other. These competitions typically involve two riding teams, from their respective universities, that compete against each other while riding the rival school’s horses.  By exchanging horses, a new challenge emerges for the student riders to be able to form a partnership and work with the horse they are given in the allotted amount time. 

            Similar to IHSA competitions, AIEC-SRNC is the World University Equestrian Federation, which hosts IHSA type competitions which take the challenge of riding unfamiliar horses, like IHSA, but increase the competition by taking participants out of their home countries to compete against fellow college students from outside of the United States. There are several existing benefits for participants of this Student Rider program.  By participating in these events, the Student Riders get to immerse themselves in unfamiliar cultures, broaden travel experiences, and bond with other students who share the same passion for horses.  Ribbons are awarded at every competition, but as different competitions are won, teams become higher in the rankings, ultimately allowing them spots on the Gold Team, which is reserved for the most accomplished teams. 

            Recently, Sarah Pollock, from Orange County, California, Lauren Zappatelli, from Madison, Wisconsin, and Tess Fortune, from Greendale, Wisconsin, were all presented with an opportunity of a lifetime to compete at AIEC-SRNC World Finals in Drobak, Norway.  These three girls joined 10 other teams, from a variety of other countries, to represent the United States in dressage and show jumping.  Though they each performed impressively in the show jumping none of the team members progressed on to further levels.  However, two of the three team members advanced to the second level of the dressage competition, bringing the United States to be ranked fourth overall in the dressage section of the competition.  All three of the girls agreed they did not do as well as they had hoped, but plan to attend more of the SRNC competitions to continue to try their best until they accomplish their personal goals. 

            These competitions are intended to be user friendly.  Every rider is eligible to compete in all three levels of dressage and show jumping.  The dressage is relatively basic up until the last round, which includes a freestyle performance from the top three riders. The show jumping starts at 1.10 meter, or 3 feet 6 inches, and generally goes up to 1.30 meters, or 4 feet 3 inches.  The fence heights may vary depending on the location of the competition and the quality of the horses supplied.  It is necessary that anyone interested in representing the U.S. compete at a level of at least 1.20 meters, or 4 feet.  If potential competitors posses a college identification card and a video of them showing, which is to be approved by the U.S. coordinator, they are eligible to join the team. Once approved to join the team, the individual is responsible for paying a small fee to AIEC-SRNC, which varies from competition to competition.  The only large fee individual riders are responsible for is the cost of their flight, and any extra money they would bring for shopping or dining out. 

            AIEC-SRNC is an organization constantly looking for new participants, urging young amateurs to further riding experiences through becoming involved in international competitions.  Criteria for participation is very basic, requiring riders to be currently enrolled in a university, have a history of showing at a fence height of at least 1.20 meters, and an interest in traveling.  It is not necessary to ride when attending these competitions.  It is also frequent that friends, and even riders who are not ready to compete at this level, venture to the competitions as supporters.  As a supporter, the individuals are expected to attend the competition for all three days, as well as participate in the awards ceremony and any other activities in which the riders participate.  Whether wishing to compete in these competitions, or simply wanting to learn the ropes of international collegiate competitions, AIEC-SRNC provides an opportunity of a lifetime for those involved in the organizations.  The competitions are held at a variety of venues in several countries throughout the year.  Some past hosting countries include Norway, Belgium, Sweden, and Romania.  For more information about the organization, as well as how to become involved as a rider or supporter, visit AIEC’s website,