My Life

Practical Horseman - - Features - By LA Pomeroy

IHSA founder Bob Cac­chione re­flects on the or­ga­ni­za­tion, now in its 50th year.

You would never guess by the tire­less en­thu­si­asm on founder Robert E. “Bob” Cac­chione’s face that 2017 marks 50 years since he helped launch the In­ter­col­le­giate Horse Shows As­so­ci­a­tion. Bob, now serv­ing as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, and a hand­ful of col­lege coaches, in­clud­ing Fairleigh Dick­in­son Univer­sity pro­fes­sor John H. “Jack” Fritz (fu­ture cor­ner­stone of such equestrian in­sti­tu­tions as the U.S. Equestrian Team and U.S. Pony Clubs, Inc.), cre­ated the IHSA to make rid­ing avail­able for any stu­dent who wanted to com­pete without feeling lim­ited by his or her skill level or eco­nomic where­withal.

Col­lege-level equestrian sport has al­ways been one of Bob’s pas­sions. In 1967, as an 18-year-old fresh­man at Fairleigh Dick­in­son, he be­came its youngest fac­ulty mem­ber as well as coach of a newly formed equestrian team that would launch the IHSA and its egal­i­tar­ian mis­sion.

To­day it’s not un­likely to hear the words “Bob” and “En­er­gizer ® Bunny” used in the same sen­tence on any given week­end at one of the hunt seat or Western shows the 400-plus IHSAmem­ber col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties host an­nu­ally while serv­ing an es­ti­mated 10,000 un­der­grad­u­ate rid­ers. Thou­sands more re­main in­volved af­ter grad­u­a­tion through IHSA alumni pro­grams. In the words of a fa­mous 1968 ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign, IHSA has come a long way, baby.

Through­out the 2016–2017 sea­son, Bob has been on a non­stop na­tional IHSA 50th An­niver­sary tour of its col­le­giate horse shows. Fondly dubbed “Bob’s Mag­i­cal Mys­tery Tour” by the all-vol­un­teer com­mit­tee in charge of co­or­di­nat­ing his more than 20 such stops, it will cul­mi­nate May 4–7 at the Ken­tucky Horse Park in Lex­ing­ton dur­ing the IHSA Na­tional Cham­pi­onships and in­clude Bob head­ing a spe­cial Fri­day cel­e­bra­tion af­ter the day’s com­pe­ti­tion.

“I still don’t believe it,” he said. “Fifty years? Where has the time gone? I can’t ex­press how proud I am when I think about the doors this has opened for young rid­ers. Or the mul­ti­ple years, if not decades, that so many coaches have given to the as­so­ci­a­tion and most of all, to its rid­ers. That’s the real back­bone of IHSA. Fifty years later I’m still mes­mer­ized by that.”

In the early days, Bob worked as ring­mas­ter for as many shows as he could, pro­mot­ing his own col­lege se­ries while net­work­ing at the gate. “That’s how I met horse­men like Ge­orge Mor­ris, Ron­nie Mutch and Vic­tor Hugo-Vi­dal—first as coaches or rid­ers at my in- gate and later I’d ask them to judge my shows. Ge­orge judged the first IHSA show hosted by the U.S. Mil­i­tary Academy at West Point [New York]. Two other coaches in­cluded Mike Page and Jim Fal­lon, who coached Ben­nett Col­lege and went on to be AHSA pres­i­dent.

“Af­ter Ge­orge judged his first IHSA show for me, it meant everything to have him say he was very im­pressed at how well or­ga­nized the show was. Since the be­gin­ning he has said he loves how the IHSA for­mat builds on a rid­ing foun­da­tion from Walk–Trot through Novice to Open. I later asked him to judge IHSA Na­tion­als in Texas and he said he would be ‘hon­ored.’ Believe me, I was the one who was hon­ored.”

As for the next 50 years, Bob still dreams as big as any fresh­man: “Maybe an in­ter­na­tional IHSA? I believe it could hap­pen.”

IHSA go­ing global, says the life­long horse­man (who once fox­hunted with Jacqueline Kennedy and es­corted Andy Warhol to the Na­tional Horse Show at Madison Square Gar­den), hinges on what he calls “the eq­ui­tation fac­tor”: “Here in the United States, we’re the only na­tion that has eq­ui­tation. Euro­pean for­mats fo­cus on dres­sage and sta­dium jump­ing. So it’s a mat­ter—in part—of look­ing at ex­pand­ing pro­grams to in­clude dres­sage and sta­dium jump­ing and defin­ing in­ter­col­le­giate.”

Robert E. “Bob” Cac­chione has been rec­og­nized for his com­mit­ment to col­lege rid­ing with the USHJA Pres­i­dents Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Award, USEF/EQUUS Foun­da­tion Hu­man­i­tar­ian Award, Doc­tor of Hu­mane Let­ters from Cen­te­nary Col­lege and Amer­i­can Horse Pub­li­ca­tions Equine In­dus­try Vi­sion Award. In 1973, a spe­cial an­nual award called the USEF/IHSA Cac­chione Cup, as a trib­ute to Bob’s par­ents, Marty and Anne, was cre­ated to honor the na­tional in­di­vid­ual hunter seat high-point rider. Past win­ners in­clude Beezie (nee Pat­ton) Mad­den and Peter Wylde.

In 1967, col­lege fresh­man Bob Cac­chione (left) and men­tor Jack Fritz or­ga­nized a clinic with Bert de Némethy (mounted).

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