TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Courtney Poist, a senior at The University of Alabama, recently became the first equestrian rider in UA history to qualify for the Cacchione Cup, which takes place at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Nationals each year.
The Cacchione Cup is an IHSA competition open to those riders whose combined score in Open Fences and Open Flat competitions earn them first place in their region. Riders must earn 28 points in each competition to qualify. With a combined score of 74 in the two competitions, Poist finished 12 points ahead of the second-place finisher.
The qualification process was competitive, with so many riders in the division vying for the same qualifying spot. Poist, a Tuscaloosa native majoring in exercise science, said she benefitted from creating friendships with some of her opponents.
“You have to be on top of your game every time you enter the ring,” said Poist. “Having friendly competition truly made this process less stressful and made the season more enjoyable.”
Poist also qualified as an individual rider for Equitation on the Flat at IHSA Nationals, at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Equitation on the Flat is a division in which the judge looks at the rider’s style and ability on the horse as it walks, trots, canters and performs specific tasks with aids that are nearly invisible.
Ashley Morrison, coach of UA’s equestrian program, has been one of the largest influences on Poist’s equestrian career. Morrison gave Poist her first riding lesson 15 years ago on her pony, Trudy. Since that time, Morrison trained Poist from walk-trot all the way up to elite equestrian classes, and she now instructs her at the collegiate level.
Poist is the only rider in the Alabama equestrian program to advance to nationals this year. There are over 400 schools and approximately 10,000 riders that compete in the IHSA, and, from those schools, about 30 riders make it to the Cacchione Cup. Although she is the only rider ever to have represented UA in the competition, she was ready for the challenge.
“Every time I step into the ring, I think about my team and ride for them, not just myself,” said Poist. “My coach and I have worked so hard to earn this spot, and this season has definitely been the highlight of my career at The University of Alabama.”
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.