Chat Transcript – Bob Cacchione

Intercollegiate Riding: A Chat with Bob Cacchione

The following is a transcript of an EquiSearch hosted chat with Intercollegiate Horse Show Association founder and executive director Bob Cacchione. Naomi Blumenthal, the director of the equine business management program and head coach of the varsity riding team at Cazenovia College, also participated in the chat. She is director of the IHSA National Finals being held at Cazenovia May 3-5, 2002.

EquiSearchStaff – Welcome to tonight’s chat, everyone! We will be chatting with Bob Cacchione, the founder and executive director of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. The IHSA is holding its National Finals this weekend, May 3-5, at Cazenovia College in New York.

Dana – I have a question about who is allowed to compete? Are graduate students allowed to compete?

DTD – ok I have a question. I am a junior in high school and I show in the children’s hunters, however my parents don’t have enough money to pay for me to show, do you have any suggestions as to how I could get a sponsor?

Bob Cacchione – We’re very excited–Nationals are this weekend and the top 400 riders (approximately) will be here at Cazenovia College. With parents, grandparents and friends, 1200=1500 people will be here this weekend.

scarlette – do we have an answer to DTD’s question?

LizFSCET – the open classes at nationals will be exciting

Bob Cacchione – This is the only organization that I know of that allows alumni and graduate students to participate all the way up to national championships. If they rode IHSA undergrad for their school, they are allowed to ride in the alumni division. We can’t really open this up to everyone. We have to limit it to undergrads that have ridden, otherwise the divisions would be flooded.

Ruffian – Hi, Bob. thanks for being with us tonight. We all seem to have a bunch of questions.

Ducktape – Bob, tell us more about Nationals this coming weekend.

LizFSCET – is everyone here an IHSA competitor?

EquiSearchStaff – Bob, could you tell us a bit about the Nationals at Cazenovia this weekend?

dana – can a graduate student, who didn’t compete IHSA as an undergrad because it wasn’t available, compete with undergrads?

DTD – nope to question about all being IHSA riders

Bob Cacchione – DTD, well before you start off with a sponsor, you should look at some of the colleges that give full or partial scholarships and there are many now in the country that offer them now. If you want to ride IHSA, if you want to continue, start off with someone to sponsor you at a local level–someone at your own barn or in your community. To try to get a national sponsor when they don’t know you is very difficult.

EquiSearchStaff – LizFSCET, we may not all be IHSA competitors, but we are all supporters!

LizFSCET – the IHSA is great…. has given me the opportunities of a life time

scarlette – may I ask a broad question?

Ruffian – Could we back up a bit? Please give us some background on IHSA. I’m not sure how it started and how I can find out what schools have it. It may help me decide on a college.

Naomi – Hi, I’m Naomi Blumenthal and I am the manager of this year’s IHSA National Championships. I will try to answer your questions about Nationals.

Bob Cacchione – Dana, unfortunately not, unless they go back for another degree in undergrad.

Ducktape – To find a list of schools Ruffian, go to

LizFSCET – Naomi, best of luck managing nationals. That is such an honor you have!

EquiSearchStaff – It seems that we have many IHSA participants and officials with us tonight!

EquiSearchStaff – Scarlette, would you like to ask your question?

dana – I think it would be great if something could be set up in the future to allow grad students, who never had a chance to compete in IHSA as an undergrad, a chance to compete in IHSA. This could mean there own classes that are separate from the undergrads or whatever. I am sure there would be a great turnout.

scarlette – ruffian asked it, thank you

Naomi – Yes, I guess it is flattering to be asked to do it 3 times in 5 years.

Ruffian – Thanks. I should have visited your site before. Does the NCAA recognize the IHSA?

DTD – how does one find out which schools offer scholarships for riding?

Naomi – In Division I and II schools, equestrian is classified as an emerging sport. Division 3 is still in the process of working it all out.

Bob Cacchione – Ruffian, I was 17 and a freshman in a college in New Jersey. My parents couldn’t afford for me to continue horseback riding so I started a club with 6 riders. It got so successful at school in one semester 40 members came about and they made me the youngest faculty member at the age of 18. I was off campus at a private stable and we invited another campus of FDU. They came and we competed against them and there were 30 riders and 6 classes. We got some publicity and the next show, 7 colleges came from 3 different states in the Northeast. I said then you have a show, you have a show, you have a show and then we will have a championship. We formed the IHSA and today there are 300 plus colleges throughout the country in 28 regions and 8 zones. What I recommend to you, Ruffian, is to go on our website,, to check the colleges and then find out more about the schools that would interest you that already have riding programs and are already in the IHSA. This will help you make your selection.

EquiSearchStaff – Bob or Naomi, does that mean that IHSA is recognized by the NCAA? What does it mean to be an “emerging sport”?

LizFSCET – I don’t believe we’re recognized by the NCAA

scarlette – could you define NCAA?

Naomi – The scholarship search is not that easy. You have to contact each school you may be interested in considering attending and ask the admissions department what their policy is about scholarships. Many of the IHSA member schools are hot linked to the college websites, so it isn’t as difficult as it probably was several years ago.

Bob Cacchione – Ruffian, the NCAA has announced that equestrian is the new emerging sport in this country. The NCAA has asked the IHSA to begin the process to formulate the rules and everything else that goes with the process because the IHSA network is already in place throughout the country. The process, however, once voted on by the NCAA members, will then take a 3-year time frame to comply with the NCAA to be a championship sport.

Ruffian – Thanks, Bob. I’m so glad you had the foresight to start this!

Bob Cacchione – Scarlette, NCAA is the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

dana – I saw an article in Practical Horseman about the NCAA recognizing equestrian sports. It sounded like it wouldn’t happen for Division III schools, but was still up for debate for Division I and II schools. There were a lot of things that still had to be worked out.

LizFSCET – my little D3 school will never see the NCAA days….. but we still love it all

Bob Cacchione – If you go onto out website,, there is a page there regarding NCAA and you can find out a great deal of information including the colleges that have declared.

EquiSearchStaff – LizFSCET, what college do you represent?

Bob Cacchione – Ruffian, thank you. I gave you the IHSA but the 6,000 plus riders in the country and the coaches and all the colleges ARE the IHSA.

LizFSCET – little Framingham State in Massachusetts!

Ruffian – I saw an article in USA Today about the Interscholastic Equestrian Association. Both organizations seem to have the same goals, but IEA isn’t nearly as far along as you seem to be. What’s up?

EquiSearchStaff – An earlier email wanted to comment on the inspiration that the IHSA has given to secondary schools. The Interscholastic Equestrian Association has just been officially formed as of last week! They are modeling their programs after IHSA.

scarlette – I see many of you are from up north; does anyone have suggestions on schools here in the south?

Naomi – Division III is almost always behind Divisions I and II in these matters. However, even though it won’t be tomorrow, I wouldn’t say that Division III will never include equestrian as a sport. The problems that kept it from happening two years ago will be eliminated when Equestrian comes out of the emerging sport status. Some Division III schools are very anxious and are pushing, but many are not truly interested, so it will take time. I am at a Division III school who is not anxious to go NCAA with the riding team at this time, but when it happens, we’ll do it too.

EquiSearchStaff – EquiSearch sources report that many smaller programs have existed, such as the Tri-State Equitation League (encompassing PA, MD, and VA), but only now is a national organization getting underway.

Ruffian – So IEA will be a feeder for IHSA? I’m confused.

EquiSearchStaff – for secondary schools, that is.

Bob Cacchione – Ruffian, I started the IHSA in 1967 and with the growth of the IHSA evolved the growth of the IEA and other branch-off organizations. For instance, the Dressage federation, Intercollegiate Dressage Federation, only started 3 years ago and they have 25 college members now.

Naomi – IEA is only a few years young. They are growing fast and have some very strong people at the helm. It too will grow to enormous proportions very quickly.

Bob Cacchione – My hat is off to them and it will take some time to expand throughout the country, but the movement has started in the Northeast and has now gone down to as far s Virginia and the Carolinas and they are in the process of now forming regions.

Naomi – Many IEA riders are already asking about where they can continue in IHSA in college. I’m certain it will really help IHSA grow even more.

dana – as a grad student who never got a chance to compete in IHSA as an undergrad, I think it would be a wonderful idea to offer some classes for us to compete in. I think there would be a lot of interested people. The IHSA is a wonderful organization and I think they do a lot for equestrian sports. Is there any chance of this happening in the near future?

Ruffian – So, I guess my very selfish question is, can I get a letter for excelling in equestrian sports, just like a football player?

LizFSCET – bob, what determines how many riders are sent to zones from a region? My region sends 1st and 2nd from each class to Regionals. Is it different in other zones?

Naomi – Many of the smaller, southern schools are not NCAA affiliated, so they probably won’t be part of this NCAA group. You can’t join the NCAA with only one sport.

Bob Cacchione – With the high school group, Interscholastic Invitational, that only started 3 years ago through Roxanne Rheinheimer in the Andrews School in Willoughby, Ohio, formatting high school competition after the IHSA competition [where you don’t bring your own horse.] They have now just this year organized enough that next year they hope to start regions at a high school level.

EquiSearchStaff – Dana – alumnae from a school who participates in IEA may compete in this organization. Any chance your high school will get involved?

Naomi – At my school you get a block letter each year you participate. You receive the same notice and awards as every other athlete on campus, and maybe more. Someone on the campus has to be willing to devote time and effort to get this accomplished on more campuses. IHSA is a good recruiting tool and the more riders can make the admissions officers of their schools realize this, the more important their teams will become, without the IHSA.

EquiSearchStaff – Good evening Sloane.

Sloane – Hi

Bob Cacchione – PA Equine has asked if any professional riders come through the IHSA ranks. Absolutely! Greg Best, two years after starting the team and riding at the University of Pennsylvania, went on to the Olympics at Seoul, Korea, and won a silver medal for the USA on Gem Twist. Beezie Patton Madden, Mark Weissbecker, Peter Wylde, Jeffery Welles, just to name a few, and there are also many on the Western side that have come through the IHSA while they were in college.

EquiSearchStaff – Sloane, please feel free to jump in with any questions or comments for Bob Cacchione.

Sloane – Just lurking for now

dana – actually, I am in grad school at the University of Maine and I never got a chance to compete in IHSA because it wasn’t available. I am part of UMaine’s Equestrian Team, but I don’t get a chance to compete with the rest of the team. I get to participate as the cheering section for my school, but I would love to have the chance to compete with them.

Bob Cacchione – Ruffian, the colleges that are declaring varsity status and NCAA compliance will, in time, give the letters, once the whole movement of equestrian becomes NCAA.

Sloane – How is the weather going to be for Nationals this year?

Naomi – Cold and probably very damp. It is an indoor show, however. Bring warm clothes. We had 90 degree weather two weeks ago and now we’re having fall!

EquiSearchStaff – what determines how many riders are sent to zones? Does it vary from zone to zone?

Bob Cacchione – Ruffian, the teams that have declared both varsity and NCAA compliance, if you go to that school and you make the equestrian team you get the same as the other varsity players receive–tutoring, use of the weight rooms, uniforms, travel, entries, all of the above. So there is a lot more than just the letter if you make the team.

Sloane – That is the great thing about riding at UCONN. Covered arena.

Naomi – We couldn’t exist without one here.

Bob Cacchione – Regarding the question about what determines how many riders are sent to zones, the answer is yes, it varies. It is determined by how many regions are in the zone. Because the geography of the country some zones may have 3 regions and other zones may have 4 regions.

Sloane – Mr. Cacchione – Do you still ride?

Ruffian – So are all the intercollegiate competitions the sort where you don’t bring your own horse? Who provides the horses?

Naomi – The host of the show provides the horses.

Bob Cacchione – Dana, I’m sorry. there has to be a cutoff somewhere. There is nothing we can do about that.

Bob Cacchione – Sloane, yes I do. I foxhunt, I am invited literally all over the country. I ride in point to points and I model as an Indian and cowboy for professional artists and art directors throughout the U.S. and I have been in many paintings and I have been on over 30 book covers. Most are on horseback. I did a shoot a week ago Wednesday and I am four cowboys on four different horses! So yes, I still ride.

PAEquine – When you are planning something the size of a National Championship, where do you find enough horses? I’m sure the host school does not have that many horses in their program.

Bob Cacchione – I live on the beach in Connecticut and in the wintertime from October through March people are allowed to bring horses down to the beach and ride. Many of my friends bring an extra horse for me.

Sloane – Great! Do you ever visit UCONN?

Naomi – We have horses loaned to us from several other colleges and universities who are part of IHSA and many of the trainers in area have generously loaned us horses also.

Bob Cacchione – Of course, many of the colleges I go to, if I go a day or two early, coaches will throw me up on a horse. I have ridden the gamut. I no longer show, however. I used to show with Victor Hugo-Vidal when he used to be on the East Coast. I did qualify two horses for Madison Square Garden.

Sloane – I will have to watch for you. I started Polo this year and was thinking about riding IHSA next year if I can.

Bob Cacchione – Sloane, I do visit UCONN. However, I have not seen the new arena because of my schedule with all the other regions. Janice, the coach at UCONN, has put her show on my calendar for next year and I will be there.

EquiSearchStaff – There’s a thought — will Polo ever be a widespread collegiate sport, operating under the same model as IHSA?

Bob Cacchione – Sloane, I will be up there next year!

Naomi – Nothing is impossible.

Bob Cacchione – EquiSearch Staff, I really think polo was around before I started IHSA at a college level. It’s just that many of the colleges find more riders interested in IHSA because of the level of riders at walk trot all the way up to the open division. They may not find that many riders interested in playing polo, especially at the beginner level.

Sloane – I will watch for you. Thank you for chatting!

EquiSearchStaff – An earlier question arrived for Mr. Cacchione via email: Do you see an international future for the IHSA? Could you see the possibility of American nationals winners going to Europe (or vice versa) to compete under the IHSA format?

Ruffian – What’s the level of competition it takes to win?

Bob Cacchione – It’s almost that you have to have played polo before you got to college. It’s much more expensive to play polo and one may even need several horses.

Bob Cacchione – I think the existing polo clubs at the college level are very strong and good. I don’t see the growth the same way as you would find with the IHSA.

Naomi – We already send IHSA riders to compete in Europe and British Isles. It is similar format to the IHSA in that the host provides the horses, but it is only at the upper levels of competition.

EquiSearchStaff – We’re chatting with IHSA founder Bob Cacchione. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have.

EquiSearchStaff – How are they selected? The open riders from nationals form a team, then?

Ruffian – Sorry, I’m talking hunter-jumper. If I’m competing over 3’6″ fences in regular horse shows, can I be competitive in IHSA?

Bob Cacchione – Ruffian, what do you mean? You can win at the walk trot level or all the way up to the open level.

Barw – Are there any schools that have recently joined ISHA competition?

Naomi – Some of the riders come from the ranks of the Cacchione class at Nationals, others volunteer to go through other measures. The USA Equestrian Federation supports the Cacchione Cup winners trip to an international competition.

Bob Cacchione – Yes, Ruffian, however, in the open division we keep our fences 3 foot to 3’3″ and remember it’s Equitation, not Jumpers.

EquiSearchStaff – Check out the IHSA website, Ruffian! It will explain the format of the IHSA in that a walk-trot rider is as valuable as an open rider!

Naomi – New schools join the IHSA every year. Last year we had about 285 school and this year we are over 300.

Ruffian – But that’s not fair. What keeps a “ringer” from entering classes below his skill level?

Naomi – It is also on unfamiliar horses. We also find it almost impossible to recruit a sufficient number of equal 3’6″ horses, but 3’3″ horses are much more available to us.

Naomi – Because we are national in scope, you can’t just go to another part of the country and lie about your previous experiences. If you do that and make it to zones and/or Nationals, you’ll get discovered by someone from your home area. The world is too small to cheat successfully any more.

Bob Cacchione – Ruffian, our rules do. That’s the first place–each class has rules that spell out what the parameters are for that class. In other words you can’t have a walk trot canter rider riding a walk trot class. In every competition there are 3 stewards. If there is a question brought before them they have a right to look at a rider and make sure that doesn’t happen.

Barw – Thanks Naomi—is West Virginia a member

Ruffian – I understand. And the strange horses are certainly an equalizer. How much time do you have on your horse before competing?

Naomi – You can go online and read the eligibility form for membership in IHSA and that may explain the requirements of each class in more detail.

PAEquine – How do IHSA participating colleges recruit riders? Are there rules for recruiting like in the NCAA?

Naomi – I believe so, but am not certain. All member schools are listed at

EquiSearchStaff – None! That’s the greatest equalizer of all – but sometimes it factors in luck into the equation!

Naomi – No recruiting rules for us. Our riders do not have to be amateurs, just full time undergraduate college students.

Bob Cacchione – Ruffian, none. There is no warm-up by the exhibitor. The horses are warmed up before the show or if there is a lunch break perhaps before the afternoon classes–by riders not competing in the show.

EquiSearchStaff – We’re nearing the hour, so please ask your final questions everyone.

Ruffian – Wow! Climbing on a strange horse and just riding down to the first fence. This is a super test of horsemanship. I apologize for not doing my homework before the chat, and I appreciate your comments.

EquiSearchStaff – Good luck Ruffian! I hope you enjoy your future in IHSA competitions.

Naomi – Cazenovia College is located in the geographic center of NYS. We’re close to many main highways. Come and witness this event for yourself.

EquiSearchStaff – Good luck this weekend Naomi. It will be exciting!

PAEquine – Will NCAA status institute recruiting rules?

Ruffian – Thank you for a great chat!

Bob Cacchione – Ruffian, some regions are putting a first fence in a jumping class that does not count. However, the rider must continue towards the second fence as if they were on course and the second fence is where the class would count.

Bob Cacchione – As some of these regions are testing that and find it successful, other regions are starting to do that now.

Naomi – If you go on board as an NCAA school you will be subject to the same recruiting rules as every other NCAA sport.

Bob Cacchione – But the IHSA is a real test of equitation.

EquiSearchStaff – Mr. Cacchione, will NCAA status institute recruiting rules?

EquiSearchStaff – RedRedWine, thanks for joining us. We’re almost out of time, so please ask Bob Cacchione, founder of the IHSA any question you would like.

Bob Cacchione – Naomi answered the recruitment question.

EquiSearchStaff – Thanks, Naomi.

RedRedWine – Oops, late again! I’ll wait for the transcript!

Naomi – I am greatly impressed by the contributions that Primedia Group is making to this National Horse Show. I hope this relationship will continue and flourish in the next few years.

EquiSearchStaff – Thank you all for joining us tonight. Thanks to Bob Cacchione for entertaining questions, as well. Click on to tomorrow for a complete transcript of tonight’s chat.

EquiSearchStaff – Good luck at nationals to all IHSA riders, coaches, and administrators — and good luck with finals to all those scholar-athletes!

Bob Cacchione – Thank you for the opportunity. We will see you all at Nationals. Good riding!

Naomi – Thank you for this opportunity. See you soon.

What did you think of this article?

Thank you for your feedback!