GS Student Jumps to Reserve Championship

GS Student Jumps to Reserve Championship

May 24, 2006

School of General Studies student Chris Peregrin, ’06, brought home a red ribbon at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Nationals competition held May 4 in Harrisburg, Penn. Peregrin, the only rider from Columbia competing at Nationals, placed second in the most advanced and most demanding area of the hunter seat competition, individual open equitation over fences.        

In hunter seat equitation, riders are judged based on how well they control their horses and maintain their position in the saddle through a series of jumps. After the first round, Peregrin was in third place; the judges then exercised their option to call for additional testing on a shorter, more difficult course; after the testing Peregrin moved up to second place.    “The goal from the beginning of the year was to get to Nationals, if not as a team, then certainly as an individual, so that kind of energy kept me really invested,” Peregrin said. “I just tried to take each show as it came.  My background’s in show jumping, and Penny [Kinnally, the Columbia equestrian team coach] was really helpful with getting me out of horse-trainer mode and into equitation mode.”     

Peregrin advanced to Nationals based on his stellar performance at the Regional and Zone finals, where he placed first and second, respectively. Peregrin’s success is part of the rejuvenation of the Columbia Equestrian Team, which has languished near the bottom of the IHSA standings for most of its history. Led by their first full-time professional coach, the highly accomplished Kinnally, the 2005-06 team took home the championship at most of the season’s shows and won the overall Regional championship, with three individual champions and two reserve champions.     

The equestrian team’s strength comes despite a significant financial disadvantage. Most of the team’s resources come from its own fundraising efforts, since the University has not yet accorded it varsity status, though it competes against varsity teams from other schools. Anyone with the desire to ride and compete, regardless of experience level or ability to pay, is eligible to join the team, which is able to subsidize some of its members; however, potential riders should note that participating requires a considerable investment of time and energy.     

With two riding lessons per week and five competitions a semester on top of a full course load and two part-time jobs, Peregrin has little free time, but he’s following a lifelong passion.  “I'm a city kid, but apparently from a very young age, I'd see police and carriage horses and go nuts,” he said. “So when I was 5, my mother took me for lessons at Claremont Riding Academy on 89th and Amsterdam, and the rest is history.”   

Peregrin continued to ride and left Marlboro College after his freshman year in order to compete full-time while teaching at a Connecticut riding facility, where he trained with Anne Kursinski, a four-time Olympian and former member of the United States Equestrian Team. But eventually he felt the need to return to college.      “… [T]he horse world is exhausting, and can feel a bit like the circus,” he said.  “As the business I was involved in grew, the holes in my formal education became more and more apparent to me.  I knew that I wanted to finish school, and in order to do that, I thought I’d have to shelve the horses for a while.  I had no idea about the IHSA or Columbia’s involvement with it when I applied, but was so excited when I learned that I’d be able to continue riding while here.”     

Peregrin will graduate at the end of the June summer session and plans to apply to law schools for Fall ’07 admission. Until then, he’s been offered a position managing another riding business with facilities in Katonah, New York and West Palm Beach, Fla. “Once you’re in the biz, it always seems to call your name!” he said.           

Written by Robert Ast. Additional reporting by Sarah Maslin Nir.   

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