ADRIAN, Mich.--Recent Adrian College graduate Rachel Kanaziz (North Branch High School) will compete in the sixth annual American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Collegiate Championship at the Built Ford Tough American Quarter Horse Youth Association World Show, which runs August 1-11 in Oklahoma City, Okla. It is held in conjunction with the AQHA World Championships.
Sixteen riders were invited to represent the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) and the National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA). Kanaziz will be riding as a representative of the IHSA, which is the collegiate organization Adrian College holds membership.
"I was in shock over the fact that I was invited to compete at such a prestigious event," Kanaziz said, learning about selection through an email while on a plane. "I'm astounded that only eight riders from the entire IHSA, whose total number of participants is about 8,000 riders, were selected to compete. I have always been humbled by success, but this opportunity is especially humbling because the selection was based on who the association viewed as the top horsemen in the entire organization. I am so excited to compete at such a prestigious event with the top riders from both associations. I've never been to Oklahoma so I'm very excited to go there and compete in the big arena. Preparing for this huge event has been a challenge because I am not able to practice with my coach the way I did during the regular season. I'm working hard to set myself up for success, but it's definitely been much more difficult to prepare on my own."
The riders will be competing in a preliminary collegiate horsemanship round on Monday, Aug. 6, with the top eight advancing to a semifinal round later in the day. The top four riders will advance to the finals on Tuesday. The event is designed to display the great horsemanship ability of both collegiate riding associations to the public and AQHA membership.
"It is very exciting news! This is such an honor for Rachel, as well as a wonderful culmination of her four years as a member of Bulldogs Equestrian," stated Jody Prime, who led Adrian to several program records in her second season with the squad. "She loves the animal and the sport, and has the talent to represent herself and Adrian College very well in OKC. I'm glad she's received a coveted invite to ride around that pen with the 15 other top equestrians in the nation.
Prime added: "In my short time as head coach here, I've had the opportunity to work with some very talented athletes. Their energy and successes have not gone unnoticed, as I've had prospective students contacting me interested in riding at Adrian and calls from the horse community wondering if their horses can be used in our program. To have Rachel receive an invite to, and compete in the AQHYA Collegiate Horsemanship Challenge, is the final coat of polish on the stellar season we just had!"
Kanaziz wrapped up her terrific collegiate career for the Bulldogs in May when she made her second trip to IHSA Nationals, ending up sixth in the open horsemanship and she was a finalist in the open reining event. Two years ago as a sophomore, she was fifth in the nation in the Western Novice Horsemanship during her 2016 IHSA debut in Lexington, Ky. As a Bulldog, she is the first to earn a high-point rider award, qualify for the IHSA Semi-Finals, compete in IHSA Nationals and participate in IHSA reining. In addition, she is the only Bulldog to multiple appearances at Nationals.
"It's been an incredible experience playing such a big role in helping the Adrian equestrian program make a name for itself in the IHSA circuit," she reflected. "I'm proud of my entire college show career that has consisted of multiple "firsts" for the team, which I hope continues to carry that momentum forward in the future years."
For Kanaziz, riding horses is a labor of love. She also appreciates the lessons she has learned from coaches and teammates during her four-year tenure with the Bulldogs.
"I ride horses because I enjoy it...winning is secondary. I'm incredibly grateful to everyone that has helped me become the rider and person that I am today, and being recognized as one of the top horseman in the association is a nice way to showcase my retention and implementation of all the information people have shared with me over the years. It's awesome to stop and think about the fact that I am among the top riders in the entire association, but it's also very overwhelming. I still have so much to learn, but it's neat to reflect on how my skills have developed over time and enabled me to become such a talented rider.
"I thought I was ending my college show career on a high note by qualifying for Nationals again this year, but this selection culminates my career at an amazing level. I'm so excited to have one more chance to represent Adrian College in the show pen."
Graduating from the College as a triple-major in biology, English and environmental science, Kanaziz has spent her summer working Michigan Department of Natural Resources as a wildlife assistant. This fall, she will be moving to Fort Collins, Colo., to attend graduate school at Colorado State University where she will study ecology with a special focus on fish, wildlife and conservation. Her master's degree will be through the National Science Foundation Research Fellowship Program.
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