August 14, 2016

School Spirit is for Equestrian Teams Too

Back-to-school is just around the corner, and middle and high school can be a time of change, often requiring students to leave the comfort of a small community school for a larger regional middle or high school. Getting to know new people can be scary but fun, and finding people with similar interests can be challenging. A great way to get to know other equestrians in your school is to form a horse related club or team.

When I was in middle school, we formed a school team to compete in the Inter-School Horse Show Series (ISHS). ISHS is a horse show series for middle and high school equestrians from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Founded more than 20 years ago by Devereaux Raskauskas, ISHS was created to give young riders in grades 5 – 12 throughout the region the opportunity to compete on school teams.

There are many different divisions at both the Varsity and Junior Varsity levels of competition making it a great opportunity for riders from beginners to advanced. Starting a team isn’t hard, and this ISHS webpage will help you. You may also compete as an independent rider (more information here). Competing on a team with fellow equestrians from your school is a great way to meet other people who also have a love for horses.


Rafey ISHS Riding

Second Chance and me at one of our first ISHS shows
(photo courtesy of Holden Rafey)

Our team did very well, ranking as the Junior Varsity Champion Team both years we competed, and we were fortunate to have the amazing Melinda Cohen as our coach with help from Ann De Michele and support from Nikki Prokopchak and Gabrielle (Ellie) Hensley. 

Rafey ISHS NBMS Article

Our team was featured in our middle school newspaper


Rafey ISHS Article Cropped

At the end of each season, we were recognized in the local newspaper as well (full story available here)

Now it’s my turn to give back and help a new team. I have the honor of working with The Lab School Equestrian Team, a group of middle school-age riders from The Lab School in Washington, DC. Last year, three riders competed all the way through to the Invitational Show, and this year we hope to repeat this success. Attending the shows with a young team and teaching them some of the things I’ve learned from my experience as an ISHS rider is really fun. The enthusiasm and determination of the team created a positive atmosphere where everyone improved their riding and team building skills and I can't wait to see what they accomplish this season!

For western riders, I plan to cover the Maryland High School Rodeo Association in a future blog post. MDHSRA “promotes the sport of rodeo, sportsmanship and education while preserving our western heritage.”



My name is Holden Rafey, and I am honored to be serving as the Maryland Horse Council’s Youth Correspondent. As the MHC Youth Correspondent, I will be posting monthly to this blog about horse-related topics in the state of Maryland to give a youth perspective and share information on topics of interest to MHC youth members. I live in Montgomery County and attend Walter Johnson High School, where I play softball and field hockey. My equestrian trainer is Melinda Cohen, and I ride at her barn, Dream Catcher Farm, in Frederick County. In addition to being the Youth Correspondent for the MHC, I am also serving a second term on the Washington International Horse Show Junior Committee and look forward to seeing lots of Maryland barns represented at Barn Night!


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