College Horses: Part 1

A horse’s career doesn’t have to begin and end in the traditional AQHA show pen; donating a horse to a college equestrian team is a viable option.

By Tara Matsler and Larri Jo Starkey
The American Quarter Horse Journal
October 28, 2013

Joker By Story was the 2013 IHSA western horse of the year

The 1987 bay gelding Joker By Story won team advanced horsemanship with Kayla Wells of West Texas A&M University at the 2013 IHSA National Championship. (Journal photo)

The landscape of opportunities for horsemen right out of high school is not what it used to be. Gone are the days of hanging up your spurs if you’re a college-bound horse kid.

What could be better than earning a degree and a national championship at the same time? Thanks to the Intercollegiate Horse Show and National Collegiate Equestrian associations and their partnerships with AQHA, more and more young horsemen are lining up for the chance to represent their alma mater in the show ring.

In many cases, though, the ratio of student-athletes to horses is skewed, with not enough horses to go around.

What many horse owners are not aware of is that college equestrian teams not only offer great benefits to their riders, but to the team horses, as well.

Take Joker By Story. At 25, the bay gelding still has a grasp on how to win a class. At the 2013 IHSA National Championship in May, “Joker” was honored as the western horse of the year.

A former student donated the bay gelding to the West Virginia University equestrian program, where he has been happily training students in the art of horsemanship for 10 years, said coach Bobby Dean of West Virginia.

“He has won national championships four times – twice this year,” Bobby said after the win in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “He won team novice (with Emily Kopko of Middle Tennessee State University), and he won team advanced (with Kayla Wells of West Texas A&M University) this morning. He’s a good boy.”

Kayla credited the horse for her performance in the advanced western horsemanship finals.

“I had a really good horse to start with, which always makes things good,” Kayla told the Journal after her winning ride.

Joker By Story, a 1987 bay gelding by Storys Early Morn and out of Tambo’s Star by Indiana Look, was bred by Sharon Puccio of Farmington, West Virginia.

“It’s always great to be recognized for breeding good hors­es,” said Sharon, a 20-year AQHA cumulative breeder. “I am so happy for Bobby Dean and the riders. It feels great to have played a small part in this.”

When IHSA posted Joker’s picture on Facebook, IHSA participants quickly “liked” the picture and added comments of their own.

“He is a great horse,” wrote Kara Hollabaugh. “Zone 6 Region 5 is truly blessed to have him as one of the great horses we use when competing at WVU.”

Student Gianna Grupp chimed in.

“An amazing horse!” she wrote. “Won my semifinals team class on him.”

Sharon is pleased but not surprised.

“The American Quarter Horse can do anything you want of them. All you have to do is ask. They have the mind to do it all. I am proud to be a member of AQHA and to have bred and will continue to breed Quarter Horses that do well in today’s and tomorrow’s show rings.”

Donating a Horse to a College

While donating a horse to a college equestrian team can offer benefits to the horse owner in the form of a tax write-off, other options exist. Some collegiate equestrian programs have the means to purchase horses, or horse owners can even lease the horse to the equestrian program. In this case, the horse owner would retain ownership, and oftentimes the college equestrian team will take care of the horse’s expenses while he is in the program’s care.

To pursue donating, selling or leasing your American Quarter Horse to a college equestrian team, visit either www.ihsainc.com (IHSA) or www.collegiateequestrian.com (NCEA) for directories of college equestrian teams.

This week the Journal featured IHSA horsemanship horse Joker By Story. Stay tuned for next week, when we will feature Lil Ruf McCue, a reining horse who was donated to an NCEA team.