MTSU Equestrian Team Wins IHSA Western Semi-Finals

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Middle Tennessee State University equestrian team members join the coaches and winning riders from the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association Western Semi-Finals March 22-23 at the Tennessee Livestock Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn. MTSU earned the team championship, qualifying for the IHSA Nationals in May. MTSU is the defending national champion. Holding the trophy is Christy Landwehr with semi-finals title sponsor National Reining Horse Association. (Submitted photo by Hanna Price Photography)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Winning the recent Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association Western Semi-Finals means the very successful Middle Tennessee State University equestrian team and seven individual riders are headed back to the IHSA Nationals.

Looking to defend their 2023 national championship, the Blue Raider riders, with 40 total points, finished eight points ahead of the second-place Midway University in the semi-finals, and comfortably ahead of the other 20 challengers in the competition held March 23-24 at MTSU’s Tennessee Livestock Center.

The Western Semi-Finals represent the final step for IHSA Western teams and individuals on their quest to compete at nationals May 3-5 at Tryon International in Mill Spring, North Carolina. MTSU was one of three universities hosting semi-finals, sponsored by the National Reining Horse Association, with the top four teams and top four individual riders in each class advancing to nationals.

“The honor and difficulty of making it to nationals does not escape,” said coach Ariel Higgins. “The goal is always just to make it there, because that is a huge accomplishment in and of itself.

“Last year’s success is something we are all so proud of, but we know it is not guaranteed again and we have to continue to work hard for the chance to do it again. I am most proud of the entire team’s outstanding efforts in hosting such an organized and quality event. Winning and getting an individual in every division was just icing on the cake.”

Higgins added that it has been “a longtime goal to have a rider qualified in every division, plus have a team qualified for nationals. This year, we are in that position. It is an exciting honor and though we will be extremely busy, we are so excited for the opportunity to represent MTSU.”

The coach said the Western Semi-Finals was “a rigorous process that required a great deal of planning, as well as dedication and talent for the riders, who were also involved in hosting. It was an exciting challenge that proved to be most successful for the team. … They are looking to defend their national championship from 2023.”

The team utilized 11 MTSU-owned horses, it borrowed 11 horses from alumni and four competing schools brought the remaining 28 horses used in the competition.

MTSU’s IHSA Western Semi-Finals results

• Jordan Martin, junior horse science major from Murfreesboro, Tennessee: High Point Rider for Zone 5 Region 1, competing in the High Point Rider class at nationals; fourth place, Individual Reining, qualifying for nationals; Reserve Champion, Individual Open Horsemanship, qualifying for nationals; fourth place, Team Reining; and third place, Team Open Horsemanship.

• Mackenzie Latimer, senior dietetics major from Millbrook, New York: fourth place, Individual Level I Horsemanship, qualifying for nationals; Champion Team Level II Horsemanship; Champion Team Ranch Riding

• Simone Allen, junior Agribusiness major from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee: Champion Team Level I Horsemanship.

• Sadio Barnes, senior horse science major from Miami, Florida: Reserve Champion, Team Rookie Horsemanship.

• Monica Braunwalder, sophomore animal science major from Lascassas, Tennessee: Champion, Team Beginner Horsemanship.

• Louann Braunwalder, senior fermentation science major from Lascassas: third place, Individual Level II Horsemanship.

• Kenlee West, junior horse science major from Samantha, Alabama: Champion, Individual Ranch Riding, qualifying for nationals; fifth place, Individual Level II Horsemanship.

• Audrey Ferrie, senior management major from Warren, Pennsylvania: fifth place Individual Ranch Riding.

• Regan Black, junior animal science major from Lebanon, Tennessee: Reserve Champion, Individual Rookie Horsemanship, qualifying for nationals.

• Shelby Amanns, senior animal science major from Knoxville, Tennessee: fourth place, Individual Beginner Horsemanship, qualifying for nationals.

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