First-year MTSU coach guides equestrian team to third-place finish at nationals

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Hotroddin' in Chrome, aka Harley, became the judge's pick for horse of the show, earning the SmartPak Most Popular Western Horse award during the May 3-6 IHSA National Championships at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pa. (Submitted photo)

Middle Tennessee State University's equestrian team has sent individual riders to the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association National Championship for many years.

However, it had been five years since the well-respected program had qualified as a team. Now, a third-place finish at nationals is how coach Ariel Herrin capped off her first year as coach following the retirement of coaching legend Anne Brzezicki.

MTSU and Oregon State tied for third in the annual IHSA event, held May 3-6 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg. More than 400 teams and nearly 9,000 riders competed in the event that ends the fall and spring competition seasons for teams nationwide.

"It was awesome," Herrin said of the accomplishment. "Our riders rode great -- everything we had practiced for. It was exciting." The team celebrated with dinner, where lots of pictures were taken, Herrin added.

National power University of Findlay of Ohio claimed its sixth IHSA American Quarter Horse Association Western (horsemanship and reining) team national title. Ohio State University placed second and was named reserve champion.

Blue Raider Western team members featured Jenna Seal and Steven Todd of Meridian, Mississippi; Mary Catherine Wade of Germantown, Tennessee; Tricia Wingate of Woodbury, Tennessee; Lucas Brock of Franklin, Tennessee; and Sarah Kozuszek of Scheller, Illinois.

Wade was second in team open reining. Wingate took third in team novice horsemanship. Brock placed third in team intermediate horsemanship. Todd finished fourth in team advanced horsemanship. Seal landed sixth in team open horsemanship. Kozuszek finished ninth in team beginner.

The Western category allows riders of all levels and abilities -- from beginner with no show experience to ones having success at a high level -- to compete as a team.

MTSU horse Hotroddin' in Chrome, aka Harley, became the judge's pick for horse of the show, earning the SmartPak Most Popular Western Horse award. Harley was one of five university horses the team brought for the competition.

"He's just really a good, honest horse," Herrin said of Harley, 23. "He's safe, but he can be a great horse for an experienced or beginning rider. He's worth his weight in gold to us."

At least 10 riders from other universities rode Harley in the competition.

►Kelsey Sloan of Olive Branch, Mississippi, finished in the top 20 for the United States Equestrian Federation/Cacchione Cup, which is awarded to the national individual Hunter Seat high point rider. It is named for Bob Cacchione, who helped establish the organization and competition in 1967 as an 18-year-old Fairleigh Dickinson University sophomore.

►Steven Todd placed seventh in the Novice Western Horsemanship category.

►Julia Rhyne of Brentwood, Tennessee, placed 13th in novice fences.

►Alumna Emily Kopko of College Grove, Tennessee, finished sixth in the Alumni Western Horsemanship division.

The 2019 IHSA National Championships will be held in Syracuse, New York.

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