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.

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SAU MBA Program

by Rob Jacobs, RLJ Stables LLC

Rob JacobsI’m Rob Jacobs and my MBA degree from St. Andrews University was conferred in May of 2017. Since completing my MBA from St. Andrews I have continued growing and developing my business RLJ Stables, LLC. Also, I have begun working on the required courses towards a doctoral degree in Management from Walden University. RLJ Stables, LLC is a freelance equestrian service related business I own and operate that was established in October 2015 to educate equestrians across North Carolina, as well as give riders the confidence they need in order to be successful with their horses. Balancing my time between my business and school work requires me to manage my time well which was something I had an opportunity to practice during my courses at St. Andrews.

The practicum courses gave me quality time to work along side the faculty to develop and strengthen my company’s business and marketing plans. I was able to use some of the faculty members as resources to ensure my plans were accurate and realistic. Having such a strong team gave me the confidence I needed to strengthen the sections of the business plan that needed further development. I am grateful I was able to be a part of a program that is dedicated to helping the students succeed. I look forward to passing on some of the knowledge I gained during my time at St. Andrews.

St. Andrews Equestrian Program is dedicated to the development of future leaders in the equine industry. The program is home to the 2016 and 2017 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) National Champions in Western Horsemanship. The Hunter Seat team is regularly represented at IHSA Nationals and the Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA) team has sent riders to the National Championships nearly every year since 2002. Students also ride at USHJA and USEF rated shows as well as attending schooling shows.

A small liberal arts and sciences university, St. Andrews majors include Business, Biology and Therapeutic Horsemanship.

Click here to request more information about St. Andrews University and Equestrian program.

Horses Then…and Now – Smokey!

Contributed by Jenna Beighle for Equine Business Management Social Media Assignment.

Smokey Then…


2009 at SAPC – Under the Stars Show

Smokey, a well-known and beloved horse, arrived at St. Andrews in 2007. He was used for beginner lessons through the western program where one rider in particular, Jessica Gesel, fell in love with him.   Although he wasn’t often used for IHSA shows (due to his navicular disease), he was very helpful for IHSA practices for beginner walk trot as he always had a gentle soul.

As Smokey got older and headed towards retirement, he also got something else: a best friend and a forever home.   Jessica Gesel (Class of 2009) was lucky enough to take him home graduation day in May of 2009. From then on, he enjoyed some light trail riding and fun before he unfortunately became too lame to accept a rider. After x-rays revealed that he had fairly severe navicular disease, he was officially retired in the fall of 2009.

Today, at 27 years old, Smokey is still living with Jess and shares a 3-acre pasture with a 14-year-old saddlebred gelding named Scout. They have the life of leisure at her farm in Locust, NC. Currently, Smokey is happily living out his golden years with two of his best friends: Scout, and his mom, Jess. “He will give you a pony hug if you wrap your arms around his neck whenever you’re down. He’s the best horse I’ve ever had,” says Jess. But with him, the favor has to be returned and if he wants to be petted, he will lightly head-butt you to get your attention. He also regularly chases her car up and down the fence line whenever she leaves or comes home. Smokey is a true mushbug of a horse and couldn’t have asked for a better life – at St. Andrews and after!

… and Now!


2015 – Smokey (right) with his best friend, Scout, at his forever home



Alumni Then…And Now

Contributed by Jenna Beighle for Equine Business Management Social Media Assignment.


Jamie and Busy

Jamie on Busy, IHSA, 2006

… and Now!


Jamie in 2015

August 2015 with a student at a GHJA Show


Jamie Nickolson (currently Jamie Bertone) is an SAPC alum who has proven just what our program can do for dedicated riders. She was accepted onto the IHSA team in 2005 and remained a lead rider through her early graduation with a Bachelors Degree in Business in 2008. She was qualified for and attended Nationals in 2005, placing 9th against the best in the country, as well as competing in the 2008 Zone Finals.

Jamie began teaching full time in 2012 after completing several more years in the Amateurs, consistently winning in the GHJA Adult Equitation Finals and Adult Medal Finals. Upon graduating with a Masters in Business in 2013 from Baker College, she continued to teach aspiring riders and took many from day one all the way up through successfully competing in the Short Stirrup divisions.

After spending 4 years teaching at various farms, Jamie purchased her own farm, now called JB Equestrian Stables located in beautiful Covington, Georgia, where she runs her training programs. JB Equestrian currently has several adult equitation riders and Jamie is an active fanatic of the TIP (Thoroughbred Incentive Program). She successfully re-trains off the track thoroughbreds and has given many a shot at a second career.

This outstanding rider has also completed two George Morris clinics; one in 2014 and then got the honor of being invited back in 2015. During one of the clinics, Chandler, the horse she raised and trained from the ground up was specifically chosen by George to personally ride and was heavily complimented. In just a few short years after the training and experience at St. Andrews, Mrs. Bertone has accomplished more than most have dreamed. This is just one example of the many accomplished equestrians that the St. Andrew’s program creates.