The American Quarter Horse Journal, February 18, 2010 – College equestrian programs depend on reliable horses, and no horses fit the bill like the American Quarter Horse.

That’s certainly the case for the University of Georgia, which recently reclaimed its top spot in the bimonthly poll of Varsity Equestrian coaches, just months before the National Championships that will be held April 15-17, 2010, in Waco, Texas.

Of the Georgia Bulldog horse herd, many are American Quarter Horses, said Georgia equestrian coach Meghan Boenig.

Georgia athletes practice their riding skills on the horses, many of which have been donated to the university for equestrian competition.

In Varsity Equestrian competition, a competitor from each of two colleges rides the same pattern on the same horse in English and Western events. Riding many different types of horses gives Georgia athletes an edge, Boenig said.

“What’s wonderful about having a diverse herd is that we often can find a horse similar to any circumstance at any school,” she said. “In fact, a lot of times, we’ll compete somewhere and watching the school and we’ll say, ‘That horse rides a lot like one we have in our herd.’ That is a fantastic tool.”

Equestrian coaches use different horses to teach different skills. One of Georgia’s best teaching horses is Whizards Old Spice, a 1999 bay gelding.

“ ‘Whiz’ would be my No. 1 pick,” Boenig said. “This horse has been ridden during every national championship since 2004. If I have a rider who needs to practice lead changes in a horsemanship pattern, I put her on Whiz. I would say he’s our most valuable American Quarter Horse.”

Whiz’s breeder, Samuel Burger of Dalton, Georgia, said Whiz’s initial training was from reining trainer Mike McEntire of North Carolina. When Burger no longer had time to ride or show the horse, he learned the Georgia equestrian team was looking for good reining horses and donated the gelding.

“He was a sweet horse,” Burger said. “He still is. I call and check on him over there from time to time. When the Georgia athletes won the national championship, they signed a poster of Whiz and sent it to me. And I like knowing he has a home for life.”

To learn more about giving your horse a second career at a university, go to the Web sites of Varsity Equestrian or Intercollegiate Horse Show Association at www.varsityequestrian.com or www.ihsainc.com

AQHA news and information is a service of AQHA publications. For more information on The American Quarter Horse Journal, The American Quarter Horse Racing Journal or America’s Horse, visit www.aqha.com/magazines.