Students Take Home Honors in Draft Horse Competition

Pictured from left Morrisville State College students Katie McIntyre, Jamie Anderson and Marc Wirasnik stand with Cletus, one of the horses in the college’s signature hitch team. (Photo by Nicolas Murphy, marketing assistant at Morrisville State College).

By Franci Valenzano, Public Relations Associate

(Morrisville, NY – Sept. 24, 2012) Three Morrisville State College students stepped into the equine show ring this summer, taking home an array of colorful accolades and harnessing a world of experience.

Katie McIntyre, Jamie Anderson and Marc Wirasnik represented Morrisville State College showing and competing at various events during a 12-week internship at the college’s draft horse barn.

Among the awards they took home were trophies and ribbons from The Great New York State Fair Draft Horse Competition.

McIntyre of Averill Park, located east of Rensselaer, an equine science associate degree major, won the Overall High Point Youth Showman Award in the 15-18 age group. She also showed in five classes; Decorating, Judging, Showmanship, Cart, and Team, placing well in all while capturing blue ribbons in the Cart and Team. She also drove in the Open Ladies Cart, bringing home a third-place finish.

Anderson of Harpursville, a senior in the college’s agricultural business development bachelor degree program, won the New York State Ladies Pair Class in her first year of competition, driving against 11 seasoned veterans, and placed fourth in the Ladies Cart Class.

Wirasnik of Pittstown, NJ, an equine science associate degree student, took first place in the Team Class Match Pair and drove the Unicorn, Four-Horse, and Men’s Cart. He was also chosen by the judges as the Novice Reinsman of the entire draft horse show.

McIntyre complemented her impressive showing at The Great New York State Fair by winning the First Junior Cart and Junior Team at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, one of the largest fairs in all of North America.

The three students started their internship in May under the direction of Scott Seymour, MSC equine manager, who has been showing horses more than 30 years and also drives Morrisville’s six-horse Belgian hitch in competitions.

Trading their summer break for an internship was a rewarding compromise for McIntyre, Anderson and Wirasnik who gained valuable horsemanship and etiquette skills in the show ring. Neither McIntyre nor Anderson had experience showing Belgians prior to their internship.

“I wanted the chance to show draft horses and this (internship) opened up many opportunities for me,” McIntyre said. “It also helps me get my name out there in the draft horse industry.”

Anderson’s avid interest in working with the college’s Belgians emerged during a draft and driving horse management class she took as an elective last semester.

Wirasnik, who has been working with Seymour the past three summers, wanted to hone his skills in the show ring.

Throughout the summer, Seymour, McIntyre, Anderson and Wirasnik showed and exhibited at numerous events and county fairs with a single horse and cart, four-, six-, and eight-horse hitches. Morrisville is the only college in North America to compete with a six-horse hitch.

Seymour, of Morrisville, travels approximately 7,000 miles per year showing and competing with the college’s popular show horses.

They’ve left their mark throughout New York state, Boston and Canada and have also exhibited at the prestigious Walnut Hill Carriage Driving Competition, in Pittsford, NY, the largest carriage show in the United States.

“It is an honor when we are asked to exhibit at prestigious shows and fairs,” said Seymour who has been dazzling crowds and gaining recognition with the college’s signature hitch for 15 years.

Although many students who show with Seymour are amateur drivers, and students and horses revolve on a regular basis, the Morrisville team still remains competitive against professionals, Seymour said.

Their strength resonates from a team of well-trained draft horses and students, precise team work between drivers and horses, and a lot of behind-the-scenes homework.

“Every minute spent by students in the ring equals an hour of prep time at home,” Seymour said. “It takes a lot of hard work and passion. The students’ hard work and all of the additional training they did at home got them the wins in the end.”

McIntyre, Anderson and Wirasnik put in extensive hours preparing the hitch for the road, which didn’t always entail physical work. They also studied each horse’s personality.

“It’s important to learn about every horse,” Anderson said. “Each has its own personality and you need to drive them a certain way based on that.”

Anderson grew especially fond of Jett, one of the college’s 10 towering Belgians she described as having laid back tendencies.

When it was show time, students worked diligently behind the scenes braiding horses’ manes and tails, shining hooves and harnesses, grooming, harnessing, and preparing the hitch.

Hitches are judged on a variety of aspects including physical conditioning of the horses, conformation, hoof size, cleanliness and quality of turnout, movement of the horses, quality of action, manners and how well the horses work together as a team and the hitch as a whole. The presentation of the wagon is also evaluated, as well as the driver’s ability to drive the hitch.

Part of success of Morrisville State College’s hitch is a reflection of Seymour who consistently introduces new horses to the scene.

“We get to work with a lot of different horses who challenge us to learn so we are constantly adapting and progressing along with the horses,” Wirasnik said.

While the internship enabled McIntyre, Anderson and Wirasnik to boost their skills, the time they spent in the show ring was the highlight of the experience.

“I loved being in the show ring,” McIntyre said. “One of the best feelings is when you are in the arena—the moment when you realize that all of the hard work you put in all summer has paid off.”

The experience has also helped them connect in the industry.

“It was a great opportunity to network with professionals,” said Wirasnik, who hopes to have his own hitch someday.

“There are people in our shoes three years ago who are now working with big name hitches,” McIntyre said. “That says a lot for Morrisville.”

Morrisville State College offers a bachelor of technology degree in equine science and associate degrees in equine racing management and equine science and management.   The diverse equine science curriculum includes specializations in breeding, western, hunt seat, draft/driving, thoroughbred racing, standardbred racing, business, and equine rehabilitation therapy.

An Equine Breeding and Training Center, a 34,000 square-foot breeding and hunter/jumper facility, includes a breeding and foaling barn, hunter/jumper barn, stallion barn, a complete breeding laboratory, collection area, laptop classroom, three indoor riding arenas. There is also a new state-of-the-art equine rehabilitation center.

In addition to the Equine Breeding and Training Center, the college has an 80-acre Equine Center complete with paddocks, stables, and the only half-mile harness racing track on a college campus in the nation. Additional stables include a draft horse barn with a covered round pen and runouts.


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