Camas Anderson is going to Nashville.
But it has nothing to do with music and everything to do with horses. The 20-year-old University of Montana student has qualified for the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association national finals in Murfreesboro, Tenn. She figures she might as well check out Nashville, the nation’s country music capital, while she’s down there.
“I’d like to hang out there for a day,” Anderson said.
Anderson graduated from Flathead High School in 2007 and has taken the fast track in college with summer classes and a full class schedule. She’s already a senior at UM, majoring in health and human performance with the goal of entering into wellness promotion and nutrition.
While she’s training for a career dealing with humans, she doesn’t plan on ever giving up horses. She’s been riding since she was 7 years old and is now the captain of the UM equestrian club team.
In Murfreesboro, Anderson will compete in the Western-style division in which riders use one hand and sit in a heavier saddle than English style. Riders also generally dress flashier in Western, adding elements of showmanship. Anderson is entered at the novice level.
“Riding’s been my passion for so long,” she said.
Qualifying for the national finals was a multi-step process for Anderson, who practices regularly with the equestrian team and her coach, Jeanne Gaudreau. First, Anderson won a regional competition in Billings. Following that victory, she traveled to the University of Findlay in Ohio for the national semifinals. She placed fourth there, launching her into the national finals in Tennessee – the top four finishers at semifinals moved on.
She said she is one of five Montana riders at nationals and the only from UM in Missoula. The other four are from UM-Western in Dillon.
Anderson will ride on Sunday, April 26, the final day of the competition. Under IHSA regulations, Anderson said competitors ride different horses each event, which she said is both challenging and rewarding. Riders don’t know what to expect from one day to the next.
The IHSA was established in 1967 and started with only two colleges. Since then, it has grown into a large intercollegiate affair, with more than 300 member colleges spread across 45 states and Canada. It represents more than 6,500 riders.
According to its Web site, the IHSA “was founded on the principle that any college student should be able to participate in horse shows, regardless of their financial status or riding level.” It incorporates both English and Western riding styles. The English riding finals are also held in Murfreesboro on the same dates.
Anderson will serve as captain of the roughly 25-member equestrian team at UM until she graduates in 2010. Then she plans to take a job as the club’s assistant coach and continue riding competitively through an alumni program. She loves both the relationship she has with horses and the riding itself too much to give up any time soon.
“I’ve been riding for so long, it kind of defines me,” Anderson said. “Riding is going to be with me forever.”
But Anderson’s passion doesn’t come without its expenses and she is accepting donations. Anyone interested in making a donation can send it to the Equestrian Team at 3000 South Higgins Ave., Lewis and Clark C21, Missoula MT 59801. For questions, contact Anderson at email@example.com.
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