Barnwell natives gallop to semifinals

Jacqueline Gray and Kaylyn Huggins, both seniors at Clemson University majoring in Animal and Veterinary Science with a concentration in Equine business, recently had the experience of a lifetime as they earned the opportunity to represent Clemson University at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Semi-Finals in Syracuse, N.Y. March 22 and 23.
The team qualified for the event at the regional show held at Lander University in early March. The team competed against Lander University, Wesleyan College and Georgia Southern Unversity and placed first overall as a team. In the past only one member from the western portion of the Clemson University Equestrian Team has qualified for regionals. This year, seven riders competed in various classes.
Ms. Gray began the year in the Beginner Horsemanship Class and advanced to Intermediate I over the season. Ms. Huggins began the season in the Intermediate II class and advanced to Novice. A rider must accumulate a total of 36 points to advance to the next class.
Once the rider has advanced, they qualify to compete against other riders who have also qualified from their division at the regional level. The rider must then place first or second at the regional level to advance to the individual portion of Semi-Finals.
Jacqueline Gray automatically advanced to compete as an individual in the Beginner Horsemanship class at Semi-Finals, as she was the only rider from her division to qualify for regionals. "This is a great accomplishment for our team as this is the second year that the western portion of the team has been back in action. We are very excited to represent Clemson at the Semifinal and National events," said senior team member Jacqueline Gray.
Rebecca Shirley, western team coach and Clemson Equestrian Center manager, chose five riders to represent Clemson in each of the events at Semi-Finals. The following riders competed in the team portion at semifinals: Rebekah Strunk in Reining and Open Horsemanship, Kaylyn Huggins in Advanced Horsemanship, Sarah Pell in Novice Horsemanship, Britney Poland in Intermediate Horsemanship, and Sarah Wilson in Beginner Horsemanship.
Huggins finished fourth in her class at Semi-finals, while the team finished fourth overall out of nine teams. "This was a huge accomplishment for our team as it was our first time competing as a team at the Semi-Final level. Even though we did not advance to Nationals as a team, we definitely held our own against previous National Championship teams. We showed up to ride our best with determination to make a name for ourselves, and I am truly honored to have been chosen to represent my school and the Clemson Equestrian program at a higher level," said Kaylyn Huggins.
The top three teams advanced to the National event in Pennsylvania. One CUET member did advance as an individual to the National Show. Rebekah Strunk of Fort Mill will also represent Clemson in the AQHA Cup in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as well as compete in the Individual Open Horsemanship division of the competition.
Kaylyn Huggins is the daughter of Paige and Travis Black of Barnwell and Jacqueline Gray is the daughter of Tina and Johnny Gray also of Barnwell. Both Huggins and Gray are graduates of Barnwell High School and were active members of the Barnwell County Career Center FFA.
The mission of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association is to promote competition for riders of all skill levels, who compete individually and as teams at regional, zone, and national levels. The association was founded on the principle that any college student should be able to participate in horse shows regardless of his or her financial status or riding level. Emphasis is on learning, sportsmanship and fun. Competition plays a role but the students' enthusiasm and team spirit are the major factors. The objective of IHSA competition is to offer the opportunity to riders in their first years of riding as well as to students with show experience. Eliminating the expense of shipping or even owning horses puts IHSA competitions within reach of many who would otherwise miss the equestrian experience.
For more information on the IHSA, visit www.ihsainc.com and for more information on the Clemson Equestrian Team visit www.clemson.edu/cuet.