University of Kentucky Boasts Equestrian Accomplishments

The University of Kentucky Wildcats are known nationally for their basketball prowess. But many sports fans might not realize that UK has achieved athletic successes with another Kentucky tradition--the horse.

Since 2008, UK's equestrian, dressage, and polo teams have all been victorious at the highest levels of intercollegiate competition.

The UK Polo Team, founded in 2006 and coached by Jorge Vazquez, consists of both a men's and a women’s division The women's team was a last-minute qualifier for the 2010 national championships in Charlottesville, Va., and became an upstart winner over the five-day meet.

"I am so unbelievably proud. I went to Charlottesville with two others who were competing on the team and we were in tears," said Tannis Marley, co-founder and past president of the team. "I just thought it would be a fun thing to do when I went to college, and now we're national champions. I'm just so proud of all the hard work and dedication and support this team has had over the years."

UK's Equestrian Team was formed in 1985 and includes both English hunt seat and Western stock seat. Riders compete both for their team, earning points for each placing they receive, and for an individual placing. They are grouped by experience.

In 2007 the Equestrian Team made its first trip to nationals. The hunt seat team won its first team championship the following year. Also that year, stock seat alumni rider Lacey Wercynski took home a reserve national champion title in individual competition. In 2009 the team returned to nationals and won a reserve national championship, placing second out of 372 teams. Individual rider Ali Cibon claimed a national championship in her division as well. In 2010 the team placed third in the national competition. Hunt seat team president Lauren Patterson believes the team's national success is a huge accomplishment given the size of the organization. The hunt seat team is coached by Michelle Zimmer of Robert Murphy Stables, and the stock seat team by Bennie Sargent of High Point Equestrian Center.

The UK Dressage Team, now known as the UK Dressage and Eventing Team, also has had intercollegiate competition success. Rider Alison Wilaby became the first UK rider to receive a national dressage title when she won the First Level Test One Division in 2008. The Dressage and Eventing Team is one of the youngest equine teams in the UK College of Agriculture and provides a networking opportunity for students interested in both disciplines.

There is no official intercollegiate eventing organization, but two unofficial shows are held each year as team competitions between universities. UK's eventing team placed second in the country at one of the 2010 shows. The team trains with Jennifer Joyce at Champagne Run Stables in Lexington.

The College of Agriculture also plays host to three other equine organizations: the Saddle Seat Team, the Horse Judging Team, and the Horse Racing Club, all of which continue to recruit new members.

For more information about the College of Agriculture’s student equine organizations, please visit

Natalie Voss is an equine communications intern for the Equine Initiative and a recent UK graduate in equine science and management.

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