Boots on the Ground: IHSA Nationals

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For the next few days, we'll have two Western riders reporting from the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association finals in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They'll share their experiences to give you a firsthand look at what it's like to compete at the prestigious event. Both riders compete for the University of Wisconsin–River Falls.

Here's an introduction to senior Alie Leonhart, a successful reiner who's been involved with IHSA since her freshman year.

My name is Alie Leonhart, and I am a senior math major at The University of Wisconsin-River Falls where I will graduate this fall. I have shown horses my entire life with my mother, Mary. I have competed at 4-H, open shows, and breed shows (AQHA and APHA), and for the last ten years have shown primarily in NRHA. My entire life I have been blessed with the ability to show wonderful horses.

Credit: Jeff Kirkbride Photography Alie and The Incredible Meg, a mare owned by her family.

Credit: Jeff Kirkbride Photography Alie and The Incredible Meg, a mare owned by her family.

My parents own three quarter horses that they graciously allow me to show. “Kady,” The Incredible Meg, is an 11-year-old mare that I competed on for six years. Together we finished in the top ten at the All-American Quarter Horse Congress in the NRHA Limited Non Pro class against over 100 entries. We were also top five at the NRHA Futurity in the Intermediate Non Pro and top ten in youth 14-18. In both 2009 and 2010 I won year-end saddles in Limited Non Pro and Intermediate Non Pro, respectively. I also compete on our seven-year-old gelding, “Baby Bear,” Whiz Bliz). Last year we were top ten at Congress in Limited Non Pro Futurity Stakes, top five in the youth futurity at the NRHA Futurity, and had multiple affiliate wins. We also have a three-year-old gelding, “Reload,” Reload The Play Gun, who we hope to show in the fall futurities. I have over $16,700 in lifetime earnings, 559 NRHA youth points, and points in AQHA as well.

I started to show in IHSA my freshman year of college, and have since qualified for semi-finals in reining and was the AQHA highpoint rider in 2013 and 2014. Four years ago, I never would have guessed that our school would send a team to Nationals! I didn’t know what to expect when I tried out for the team. I’ve known Janie Huot since I was a young girl showing POAs. I have continued to get to know her through years of showing NRHA. My first year on the team was a blur. I remember that it wasn’t what it is now, a team. The first year on the team I focused more on individual competition outside of IHSA. I went to Congress and the NRHA Futurity, and consequently missed a few IHSA shows. I wasn’t focused. Then my mom and I cut down on showing, especially those during the school year, and I was able to focus my attention on school and IHSA. I’m glad that I did.

I went to Nationals in Pennsylvania last year as our region’s highpoint rider. Janie and I were the only ones able to attend. It was a great experience and an eye-opener for our team. This year, I look forward to having a supportive group of my teammates with me and at home. I am excited to be able to ride great horses, be on the floor of the arena, and be in great company at Nationals in just a few days!

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