GeneraI Information


Watch the video. The IHSA teamed up with Equine Network to produce "Life Lessons 101," a documentary that profiles three IHSA alumni as they share what their IHSA experience meant to them.


Watch the trailer "Life Lessons 101"


Watch the full-length documentary.





The mission of the IHSA is to provide equestrian competition for all college and university students regardless of riding level, gender, race, sexual orientation or financial status. The IHSA is dedicated to promoting sportsmanship, horsemanship and academic excellence.


IHSA embraces diversity, equity and inclusion and strives to create a welcoming environment for all members to thrive, grow and build lifelong connections.


IHSA welcomes beginners through advanced riders in the hunter and Western disciplines to compete individually or on a team. All genders compete with and against each other.

IHSA eliminates the expenses of horse ownership. Horses are furnished by host colleges and are chosen by drawing lots. The use of personal tack is not allowed and schooling is not permitted. The format fairly tests the horsemanship of the athletes. Divisions range from Beginner to the Open Division for the more experienced riders.

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Full-time undergraduate students of member colleges are eligible to compete. Riders qualify for the National Championship (Nationals) through a point system. During the year, contestants accumulate points at their IHSA local shows to qualify for the Regional Finals in their respective divisions. The top two riders in each class of the Regional Finals move forward to the Zone Finals. The top two competitors in each class at Zones qualify for Nationals.

Each region’s high-point team competes head to head with the other high-point teams in its Zone for the right to represent the Zone for National champion team honors of winning the IHSA Team Championship in the hunter seat division and the Western division.

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Regional high-point riders are eligible for the National Individual Championship. The Hunter Seat High-Point Rider, Presenting the Cacchione Cup, is awarded to the national individual hunter seat high-point rider. The Back on Track Western High-Point Rider winner receives top prizes. The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) awards a Morrison Bronze trophy to the Individual Open Reining Horsemanship class winner. Many IHSA competitors have gone on to play significant roles in the equestrian industry and in business.


The Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association was established in 1967 by Robert Cacchione while an 18-year-old sophomore attending Farleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey. Cacchione developed the prototype competition program with the help of his professor and renowned horseman Jack Fritz. 

Bob with mounted team

Launched with just two colleges competing in hunter seat equitation, the IHSA was praised for its innovative competition format and quickly caught on. In 1979 the Western divisions premiered at the IHSA National Championship Horse Show (Nationals). In 1999 IHSA Inc. was established as a nonprofit organization. 

The early shows were judged by great horsemen, like Frank Chapot and Michael Page. Originally, Nationals were held at various college facilities.

IHSA now encompasses 40 Regions in 8 Zones with over 400 member colleges in 45 states and Canada and represents 10,000 members in hunter seat equitation on the flat and over fences, Western horsemanship, ranch riding and reining. To support the size of the organization, IHSA now requires major venues like Harrisburg, the Kentucky Horse Park and Los Angeles Equestrian Center for its National Championships.

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Murray State won the Western Nationals in 1988.

Some of the most notable riders in show jumping and the Western disciplines competed in the IHSA during their college years. Four-time Olympian and two-time Olympic gold medalist Beezie Madden competed for Southern Seminary and won the Cacchione Cup in 1984. Olympic gold medalist Peter Wylde won the Cacchione Cup in 1986 while he attended Tufts University. 

Beezie Madden
Olympic gold medalist Beezie Madden competed for Southern Seminary and won the Cacchione Cup in 1984


Were it not for the tenacity and passion of Bob Cacchione, the IHSA would not exist. Little did he know he would have such a profound impact on the college experience of hundreds of thousands of college students across North America. Cacchione founded the IHSA to continue riding and competing while attending Fairleigh Dickinson College in Teaneck, New Jersey. He traded the use of horses at a local stable in exchange for giving riding lessons. In 1967, he put a small ad in The Chronicle of the Horse about his concept of collegiate horse shows. Six colleges immediately contacted him and the IHSA was born.

The organization now has over 400 participating colleges and universities and 10,000 members. IHSA is comprised of 39 regions in 8 eight zones in 47 states and Canada. Because the IHSA offers all levels of competition, from beginner through advanced, and offers college students a way to learn how to ride, it significantly impacts equestrian sports' grassroots development.

Cacchione worked for Cartier from 1973-1988 and used his network of contacts to help build the IHSA. With Cartier, he hosted lavish parties and rubbed elbows with celebrities. He worked as a ringmaster for top equestrian competitions and cultivated relationships with horsemen like Frank Chapot, Ronnie Mutch and Victor Hugo Vidal. He introduced them to the IHSA and asked them to judge IHSA shows.

As executive director for 52 years, Cacchione proudly led the IHSA, shaking the hands of every competitor at the IHSA National Championship Horse Show and working tirelessly alongside board members who have become lifelong friends. With his devotion to the IHSA and the number of lives it has impacted, Cacchione is regularly recognized and acknowledged during his travels by people from all walks of life who once participated in the IHSA. He stepped down from the executive director role in 2019 and now serves as founder emeritus.

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U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York

The Cacchione Cup was named in honor of his parents, Marty and Anne, and awarded each year at Nationals to the High-Point Hunter Seat rider. Cacchione has been recognized for his commitment to college riding with the USHJA Presidents Distinguished Service Award, US Equestrian/EQUUS Foundation Humanitarian Award, a Doctor of Humane Letters from Centenary College and the American Horse Publications Equine Industry Vision Award. In 2019, USHJA presented him with the William J. Moroney Visionary Award, named after the former USHJA president. He also serves as the chairman of the Gentlemen's Committee of the National Horse Show held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

Bob Cacchione and David OConnor
Bob Cacchione and David O'Connor