University's equestrian programs riding high
By Eileen Cody ’14
The last thing you might expect to come across in the quiet little town of Alfred, N.Y. is a world-class equestrian facility. That, however, is just what you’ll find at Alfred University’s Bromeley-Daggett Equestrian Center.
The 400-acre University-owned facility, located at the Maris Cuneo Equine Park several minutes from campus, was constructed in 2005 thanks to generous alumni donations. It is home to over 40 University-owned horses, four competitive equestrian teams and an extensive academic program, as well as a dedicated teaching and coaching staff.
“When I first came on board as director five years ago, my biggest goal was to try to improve the quality of the horses, the riding and horsemanship that was taught, and to develop the curriculum to better suit the type of student that was attracted to Alfred,” said Nancy Kohler, director of the University’s equestrian program. “I wanted Alfred to be known for offering a very professionally run program.”
These goals are evident in the accomplishments of the equestrian program at all levels over the past several years.
The University-owned stable of horses has greatly improved, attracting national attention at Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) and Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) regional, zone and even national competitions. In April, Alfred brought 17 horses to be used at the IEA national hunt seat show in Syracuse, N.Y., where middle and high school riders from across the country competed for national championships over fences and on the flat. Alfred’s equine representatives performed so well that they have already been requested for next year’s IHSA Nationals in Harrisburg, Pa. Alfred’s Western horses are also regularly requested at regional and zone shows.
These horses serve as ambassadors of Alfred’s equestrian program, attracting prospective students particularly at IEA shows, where high school riders are looking for a university where they can continue their equestrian education.
And Alfred’s four equestrian teams are certainly no slouches, either. Alfred University sponsors IEA hunt seat and Western teams for local middle and high school riders in addition to fully supporting varsity IHSA hunt seat and Western riding teams for college students.
The IEA hunt seat team had its best season ever this year, with the upper-school riders finishing as champions of their zone and two team members riding and placing at the national show in Syracuse. The Western IEA team also continued to perform well, consistently placing in the top three teams at their shows.
Alfred’s IHSA Western team finished their regular season in March as regional high point team, earning them a spot at the semifinal competition in Ocala, Fla. where they placed second. The team will send riders to IHSA Nationals in Raleigh, N.C. in May to compete for the national team championship. Senior Kalcy O’Keefe, a biology major from Rochester, N.Y., won the American Quarter Horse Association regional high point rider title, and she will compete individually at the national show in the open reining division. Several Western team members also placed as individuals at semifinals.
The IHSA hunt seat team finished as regional reserve high point team for the second year in a row, also sending four riders to compete individually at zone championships in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Alfred’s equestrian program also prides itself on its unique variety of equine academics. Courses taught regularly at the equestrian center include four levels of English and Western riding, draft horse driving, dressage, reined cow horse, and theory classes ranging in subject matter from equine massage to nutrition and feeding to hunter and jumper course design. The university also offers an equestrian studies minor, which students have paired with a number of majors and other minors to prepare for a career in the horse industry.
“We like to consider our students well-rounded,” said Kohler. “By having the equine classes, especially having the diversity of classes in levels as well as disciplines, we are giving our students the opportunity to learn and experience a field that they may not have had a chance to do elsewhere.”
The variety of programs offered at the equestrian center are held together by the dedicated team of teaching and coaching staff, all of whom work tirelessly to improve and expand upon the program’s offerings. In addition to her role as director of the equestrian program, Kohler also teaches several classes and serves as head coach of the IHSA hunt seat team. Her assistant coach Rebecca Jacobson is also the head coach of the IEA hunt seat team and teaches English riding classes as well. Harry Hurd, whose professional experience in the Quarter horse industry spans over 40 years, is the head coach of the IHSA Western team. Kristen Kovatch, AU class of 2010, who also coaches the IEA Western team and teaches Western riding and draft horse driving, assists him.
The equestrian program has made considerable strides over the past several years, securing Alfred University a place among the foremost equestrian colleges in the nation.