Alumni Spotlight: Connor Smith “A Passion for IHSA Leads to a Career”

by Beth Ann Tate

L to R: Coach Carla Wennberg, Equestrian Program Director Peggy McElveen, Connor Smith, Assistant Coach Lindsey Trokenbrot.

Conner Smith is a 2018 graduate of St. Andrews University with a degree in Business Administration: Specialized Program of Study in Equine Business Management believes a passion for IHSA led to a career in the Quarter Horse industry. During his time at St. Andrews Conner was a part of the IHSA Varsity Western Team as well as the riding council president for the 2017-2018 school year. Conner became a student at St. Andrews in 2014 and joined the western team as an Intermediate level rider. During his first year Conner showed at many of the regular season shows but did not qualify as a regional rider.

During his Sophomore year Conner pointed out of intermediate during the first regular season horse show, which qualified him for Regionals. He then began to show advanced and continued to Semi-finals and Nationals as the intermediate individual and advanced team rider. Conner placed third at Nationals in the team advanced.

At the start of his Junior year Conner pointed out of advanced and started showing open horsemanship. Unfortunately, Conner did not make it through Regionals as an individual, so he did not qualify for Semi’s or Nationals this year. Senior year Conner started showing the reining, as well as open horsemanship. Conner was High Point Rider for the region and continued to Semi-finals and Nationals as the team reining and team open horsemanship rider as well individual open horsemanship. At Nationals Conner won high point rider for the nation, team open horsemanship, and placed fourth in individual open horsemanship.

Read the NRHA report on Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) Nationals 2018 here.

IHSA Life Changing

When asked about how the IHSA changed his outlook on riding while at St. Andrews Smith stated, “I learned the true value of sportsmanship and how to be part of a team. You work hard for the team, regardless of the level of your riding. Even if you are not the point rider at a show, you ride just as hard for your team. Going through the program helped me realize my goals. I knew through the program I wanted to continue to pursue coaching and judging. I realized this while working alongside of my coach, Carla Wennberg, in my teaching practicum my senior year. In this class I was graded on how effective my coaching skills were to other students within the program. This class allowed me to teach and help coach some of the team riders to prepare for Nationals. I truly believe my passion for IHSA has led me to the career I have today.”

Grose Quarter Horses

After graduating from St. Andrews Conner accepted the position of assistant horse trainer at Grose Quarter Horses. Here Conner rides under Carrie and TW Grose, a mom and son training team. Conner helps the duo manage a herd of 15 horses in training. In this position Conner gets a significant amount of saddle time on the younger client horses as well as traveling to shows with the clients. Grose Quarter Horses specialize in the all-around horses and have rated success in the all-around events.  Conner travels where the clients want to show but has so far only been a part of the Florida circuits. He looks forward to traveling to Georgia in July, Oklahoma in August, and the Congress shows in the future. Conner hopes through his travels to become a greater part of the AQHA community. Grose Quarter Horses specialize in the all-around horses and have rated success in the all-around events.  Conner travels where the clients want to show but has so far only been a part of the Florida circuits. He looks forward to traveling to Georgia in July, Oklahoma in August, and the Congress shows in the future. Conner hopes through his travels to become a greater part of the AQHA community.

Check out Carrie Grose Quarter Horses YouTube Channel

Staying Involved and Giving Back

Although Conner has graduated, he is still an active part of the IHSA community. Throughout the 2018-2019 school year Smith traveled back to his St. Andrews home to assist with several of the regular season IHSA shows. Senior Hannah Newman reflected a little on Smith’s involvement with the team this year. “He was the one who talked me into riding western my junior year. Connor supported me every step of the way, through all of my frustrations and confusion. Even though he is in Florida he still calls to give me a pep talk before every one of my rides. He is a part of the St. Andrews family and the team appreciates all he does for us more then he knows!”

Smith was also able to help with the IHSA Semi- Finals in Florida by bringing 3 horses from GQH to use for the horse show. Smith warmed the horses up and took care of them for the duration of the show. All their horses were selected to be part of the competition and performed well in all of their classes. Smith remarked that, “It was truly great to be back interacting with different coaches and in the collegiate environment. The busy Semi-Finals scene felt like home for me after it being such a huge part of my life these past 4 years. I loved being able to interact with some of the collegiate riders I had met during my time at St. Andrews. This environment is one place I hopes to see again in my future.”

Connor with St. Andrews IHSA Western Coach Carla Wennberg

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