Conner Smith, a graduating senior from Gastonia, NC, won the 2018 Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) National Championship Horse Show Team Open Western Horsemanship and earned the AQHA High Point Western Rider. His St.
Andrews team went on to finish fourth in national competition against schools including Ohio State University, Middle Tennessee State University and the first place team from the University of Findlay (OH).
Results were released on May 8. The competition was held at the Pennsylvania Farm Complex in Harrisburg, PA. St. Andrew’s Hunter Seat Team finished 10th in the nationals at the same location with the winning team from Skidmore College (NY) and teams from Stanford University, Boston University and Purdue.
Smith’s St. Andrews coach Carla Wennberg fought back tears of excitement and pride in her student whom she described as a leader for the team. He went from the Intermediate division to Open under her tutelage, but she credits other trainers for helping to develop the talented rider.
“He’s put a lot of effort in with other trainers to help him with reining,” Wennberg said. “I can’t take all that credit. We’ve had some great horses for him to learn on and a real special horse named Puddy. We all have a great connection and we respect each other and he works hard.”
“You know I just took what Carla always says, ‘You can never wait, you just have to start from where you are and learn from what happens as the days pass and build from that,’” Smith said. “Consistency is key, so just working toward consistency and correctness was how I ended up on top.”
Smith complimented Jade, the horse he drew on the final day of competition, and described her as sensitive, very correct and a good mover. “She was a lot of fun. She was great on the rail, excellent on the pattern, very smooth and I was able to show off a lot of different maneuvers throughout the pattern,” he said.
Smith has been a member of the IHSA for four years and this is his second trip to Nationals. In his sophomore year, he placed third in Team Advanced Horsemanship.
After graduation, Smith has a job in Charlotte with a company that does search engine optimization and web design. “I guarantee you he will stay in the horse industry as a competitor,” Wennberg said.—30
(Photos by alcookphoto.com)