USC Aiken Western Riding Team Enjoys Success during Inaugural Season

May 09, 2017

The University of South Carolina Aiken expanded its equestrian program for the 2016-2017 academic year to include a Western Intercollegiate Horse Show Association team, hailed as “fun” and educational for participants.

“Since this was the school's first time having a team of this discipline, and it was our coach, Jeff Temple's first time coaching an IHSA team, it was a learning experience for everyone, but our team turned out to be very successful,” said Kirstin Taylor, a rising sophomore majoring in secondary education.

The team competed against more established programs at much bigger universities: Clemson, Georgia Southern, Lander and Wesleyan College. Rival teams outnumbered USC Aiken’s team – often up to five times. Despite the small number, Pacer riders fared well at three signature collegiate events, including two at Lander University and one at Clemson.

“It was fun to show up at our first show, with our small team of four girls, and end up reserve champions for the team challenge at the end of the show against schools who have up to twenty members who have been doing it for several years,” said Taylor, a Saint Albans, Maine, native.

At the end of the season, USC Aiken claimed: five, 1st place ribbons; one 2nd place ribbons; five 3rd place ribbons; six 4th place ribbons, one 5th place ribbon; and four 6th place ribbons. In addition, Pacers earned a Team Reserve at Clemson University last fall.

“This is an incredible record for such a young team, especially in their first year,” said Michelle Hodge, the team’s advisor on campus.

“I’m very proud of these riders. They displayed tremendous talent and have a lot of potential. The university is blessed to have this group establishing what we expect will be an enduring program.”

The team members credit their coach with much of their success. Jeff Temple volunteered to partner with the young Pacer team, coaching it through the team’s inaugural year. He is a long-time American Quarter Horse Association professional horseman, trainer, and clinician who brings more than 25 years of experience to the team.

“Coaching the team through its first season was a rewarding and educational experience, as we all learned the procedure of the IHSA format. It was gratifying for me to see the team members apply what they learned in their weekly lessons and achieve success in the show ring,” said Temple, owner of Mount Vintage Plantation Stables in North Augusta.

He not only shared his expertise but his resources as well, which included two large, irrigated arenas and a round pen. Temple says he’s already committed to working with the USC Aiken Western team again next year.

“I have high hopes and great expectations to build our program and expand the team. I am already looking forward to next season.”

The student-riders are also preparing for the upcoming season. Some will spend the summer in Aiken, working with Temple and other equestrian leaders in town, honing their skills and building their horsemanship repertoires. Others will ride in their hometowns, spanning from New England to California.

These dedicated efforts will not only benefit the individual riders but the university as well.

“I believe that having this team will benefit USC Aiken because it will increase the student involvement. There were people who did not join the team in previous years because it only offered English [riding],” Taylor said.

“Also, as the team grows and we get more recognition, people will consider going to our school so that they can join our team. It is important for a school in Aiken to embrace the fact that horses are such a large part of the history of the town.”

Any member of the USC Aiken student body can join the group, regardless of ability or previous experience. Students who have an interest in horses are encouraged to consider joining the team.

“Our lesson horses are quiet, safe, and well-trained, appropriate for all levels of riders,” Temple said.

USC Aiken’s season highlights include:

Lander University Winter Western Show, January 2017

First Show
Alexandria Whisenant, 1st place, Advanced
Kirstin Taylor, 4th place, Novice
Jessica Wymbs, 4th place, Intermediate 2

Second Show
Lexie Whisenant, 3rd place, Advanced
Kirstin Taylor, 4th place, Novice
Jessica Wymbs, 6th place, Intermediate 2

Lander Western Show, September 2016

Individual Results
Santana Poole - Advanced Western Horsemanship
3rd place, first show
6th place, second show

Kirstin Taylor - Novice Western Horsemanship
4th place, first show
1st place, second show

Alexandria Whisenant - Advanced Western Horsemanship
1st place, first show
1st place, second show

Jessica Wymbs - Intermediate II Western Horsemanship
3rd place, first show
4h place, second show

Clemson Western Show, September 2016

Overall
The USC Aiken Western Team won Reserve in the first show of the day.

Individual Results
Santana Poole - Advanced Western Horsemanship
1st place, first show
3rd place, second show

Alexandria Whisenant - Advanced Western Horsemanship
3rd place, first show
2nd place, second show

Kirstin Taylor - Novice Western Horsemanship
5th place, first show
6th place, second show

Jessica Wymbs - Intermediate II Western Horsemanship
4th place, first show
6th place, second show

For more information on the USC Aiken IHSA team, go to: www.usca.edu/equestrian.



USC Aiken, a comprehensive university in the University of South Carolina system, offers undergraduate and master’s degrees to more than 3,500 students in 50 programs of study. USC Aiken is ranked the #1 public regional college in the South by U.S. News & World Report’s guide "America’s Best Colleges." The 2017 distinction marks USC Aiken’s 19th consecutive ranking among the top three in this category and its 12th time in first place.