(L-R) Julie Goodnight, CHA Spokesperson; Jo-Anne Young; Larissa (Strappello) Ries; Beth Powers, CHA President. (Photo courtesy of CHA.)
(L-R) Julie Goodnight, CHA Spokesperson; Jo-Anne Young; Larissa (Strappello) Ries; Beth Powers, CHA President. (Photo courtesy of CHA.)
Author: Michelle [Shelly] Hillman
Categories: Academics|Equestrian

The Houghton College equestrian program recently received the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) Partner in Safety Award, an honor given to a facility that is committed to promoting safety and awareness while helping the equine industry and CHA.

Larissa (Strappello ’08) Ries, instructor and equestrian program director, and Jo-Anne Young, Houghton College’s equestrian program director emeritus and a 1969 graduate of the college, were present at the CHA International Conference in Lexington, Kentucky, to accept the award. Both are CHA-certified instructors and have been involved with the organization for years.

“It was a complete surprise and a huge honor to receive the Partner in Safety Award,” remarked Ries. She added that the Houghton College Equestrian Center (HCEC) aims to help anyone who comes to the barn – for lessons, riding clinics, and more – learn how to safely handle horses and develop a partnership with them.

Young, who has overseen the development of the HCEC and the equestrian major, was also elated at the presentation, noting that “Houghton College is honored and pleased to continue working with CHA in preparing the next generation of riders and instructors for excellence with safety.”

During her 31-year tenure as equestrian program director, Young was instrumental in the implementation of CHA practices and teachings at Houghton, dedicating countless hours to developing a curriculum focused on safe, correct training and outreach education. Houghton’s program is known for academic excellence, professionalism, and experiential learning, offering five equine disciplines and teaching students from across the country to ride, teach, and train using the principles of classic dressage.

The HCEC is an ideal training ground for students to learn and train under CHA-certified professors and FEI-level clinicians. Students plan and execute events and connect with the community and others in the equine industry. Each year, the college hosts 10-12 public events at HCEC, including more than 44 CHA clinics and regional conferences since joining the association in 1996. The center also holds a regularly sold-out, multi-week equestrian camp, as well as a number of U.S. Equestrian-recognized dressage competitions. In 2016 the HCEC was named one of the 20 Most Amazing College Equestrian Centers in the country by Best Value Schools, alongside major universities such as Michigan State, Stanford, and the University of Kentucky.

In October 2017, Houghton College broke ground on a 36,400-square-foot indoor equestrian arena, made possible by an anonymous $2.4 million lead gift. In addition to the new arena – to be completed prior to the 2018-2019 academic year – Houghton announced a $3.5 million comprehensive equestrian center campaign effort.  This initiative – identified as a priority of IMPACT: The Campaign for Greater Houghton – will expand and upgrade existing facilities, create an endowment for ongoing operational funding, and allow for further growth as the center becomes an economic force locally and regionally.