In 2015 I attended my 10 year college reunion at Mount Holyoke. It’s almost as if life had flashed before my eyes - has it really been 10 years since I graduated? I mean, it’s not as if A LOT has not happened in the last 10 years - multiple jobs, graduate school, getting married, starting my own business - oh, did I mention I have moved 7 or 8 times in those last 10 years? When I think about why it feels like I was at Mount Holyoke (MHC) just months, not years ago, it all culminates in one thing - the IHSA riding team.
Above: the Mount Holyoke Equestrian Team in the 2004-2005 year.
The IHSA team was competitive, and our coach, CJ Law had a large pool of talented equestrians to choose from. I wasn’t a star rider on the team, far from it. I didn’t even make the team every semester. But the team, and the riding program at MHC were inclusive and the group of women there became my second family, many of my closest friends, and beyond that, a network of people who always lend a helping hand when they can. That group extended beyond our IHSA team, to others in the region. We all have friends that went to, for example, Smith College and The University of Massachusetts Amherst. It is this awesome group of extended friends and family that I am in frequent contact with, even though many of us live far apart from each other.
When I started my business, The Simple Equine, which makes natural grooming products for horses and riders, my IHSA network from my college days immediately helped me when I asked. I was given marketing guidance, product ideas, ideas about where to sell and how to sell. People willingly volunteered, testing and trying my products, and answering questionnaires and endless additional questions from me. I was also lucky enough to have friends, IHSA riders, who like me, had just entered equestrian related businesses too. Lauren Morlock, owner of Galleria Morusso, and Sharon Perrin (Lilien-Zwiebel) and Katie Sutko (Matteson) who own Kathryn Lily Equestrian, have been an endless supply of information, encouragement, camaraderie, and empathy. Of course it goes without saying that Coach CJ Law has been kind, generous, a wealth of knowledge, and enthusiastic about my endeavors. Her love for helping her riders throughout their lives, beyond the four years they attend MHC, must be praised.
But the story goes beyond Zone 1, Region III of the IHSA. Literally every time I meet other IHSA folks at a barn, a show, or a social event, they offer their help, words of wisdom, or even just a “well done and keep at it.” They are current students, alumni, and even coaches. They are kind, professional, and intelligent.
It goes without saying, that the common thread here is the IHSA. The IHSA brings us together. It turns an individual sport into a team sport. It enables experienced lifelong equestrians to nurture walk-trot riders. It evokes memories for the advanced riders on the team, and creates new memories for those just learning about horses and how to ride. The IHSA encourages us to be responsible, for each other, for the horses that we practice on, the shows we run, and the colleges we represent. Oh yes, and we have FUN. Lots of it.
Above: A few of us having fun at our 10 year reunion in 2015
The IHSA enhances our college experience by helping to prepare us for the real world. The lessons learned while being part of the IHSA are extremely valuable. I think we realize this when we meet fellow IHSAer’s. We know that we had certain mutual experiences that shaped us in positive ways. Of course, we don’t really think and analyze these qualities, we just inherently know it when we meet someone else from the IHSA.
I am looking forward to many more interactions with fellow IHSAer’s. I can already thank them for the help and guidance they have given me with my business. As The Simple Equine grows, I look forward to having IHSA interns and employees. I am a part of a positive reinforcing loop. I hope the IHSA continues to be a great organization that turns out so many wonderful people. I for one, am a very proud and grateful alumna and privileged to have been part of the IHSA.
This post is based on experience, learning and opinion. You may or may not agree with what is written, but we hope that you will be left with information to consider, mull over, laugh at, or even agree to disagree about. Thank you for reading.