Member Spotlight

Meet Bekah Irish, Assistant Professor at Black Hawk College

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I am originally from western Washington and was introduced to horses and showing through 4-H.  I am forever grateful for the experiences and opportunities made available through this program.  After high school, I chose to further my education by way of an apprenticeship and spent several years working for training operations in California and Arizona.  I found my way to the Midwest because of connections at Black Hawk College East Campus.  This small two-year community college has a network spanning the country because of its nationally recognized agriculture programs and competitive teams.  I completed my Associate of Arts at Black Hawk and finished my Bachelor’s at the University of Findlay.  Both institutions provided an avenue to ride while in college through the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) where I competed in both the horsemanship and reining.
Presently I am an Assistant Professor of Equestrian Science at Black Hawk College.  In 2022 I coached the IHSA National Champion Western Team, making Black Hawk the first community college to earn this title.   Contributing to this victory included past ILQH youth riders Anna Wilhelm, Lily Zomparelli, and Samantha (Lind) Faber.  The Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association is comprised of about 400 teams and over 7500 student-athletes, from 2 and 4-year institutions, that compete throughout the US and Canada. Students participate in a blind draw for a horse they have never ridden requiring the utmost skill and feel as a horsewoman or horseman.  The playing field is leveled into seven divisions ranging from nationally recognized riders to students who have never shown a horse.  To be competitive there must be strong riders in each division.  I love this aspect of the competition because it creates a team out of what is normally an individual sport.
The Black Hawk College Equestrian Program attracts students from across the country and some internationally, coming as far as Venezuela.  Black Hawk provides an affordable education for students to pursue their passion for horses while serving as a platform to prepare them for higher education.  The state-of-the-art facilities on the East Campus are home to a herd of quality school horses made possible by generous donors.  Students have the option to ride a school horse or bring a personal horse for any of the riding courses providing exposure to horsemanship, showmanship, trail, equitation on the flat and over fences, colt starting, reining, ranch riding, and roping. Black Hawk students also have the opportunity to compete on the award-winning Horse Judging Team coached by Aaron Callahan earning more than 20 AQHA World titles during his tenure.  The newly added Hunt Seat IHSA Team is coached by Selena Finn and finished the season as Reserve Regional Champions.
I am grateful to the many mentors I have within the Illinois Quarter Horse Association and I look forward to serving the ILQH community.


Illinois Quarter Horse Association | PO Box 27 | Wonder Lake, IL 60097

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