Full Circle

A former AQHYA world champion enjoys a successful collegiate career and is now contributing to the sport from the coach’s chair.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

Logan Pluhar, once a competitor in National Collegiate Equestrian Association events, is now a coach. (Jill Dunkel photo)

South Dakota State assistant coach Logan Pluhar preps one of her horsemanship riders during the four minute warm up time at the NCEA National Championship show. Pluhar has been able to draw on her experience as an elite collegiate rider to now help strengthen the program at South Dakota State. (Jill Dunkel photo)

It’s different.

That’s the best way to label the transition from a youth equestrian career to that of a women’s college athlete. No other college sport takes how the athlete is accustomed to performing in high school and turns it on its head.

Drawing from top riders in the youth ranks who are accustomed to riding their own horses, collegiate equestrian riders must learn the skill of catch riding. Some adapt quickly. For others it takes months, and for some, it's a difficult transition that they never quite master.

Logan Pluhar took to catch riding in her freshman year at Texas A&M and enjoyed a successful career doing something that few equestrian riders do – specializing in two disciplines. Throughout her time riding for the Aggies, Logan rode both horsemanship and reining. And at the end of her four-year career, she was a volunteer student coach until she graduated. Her success, experience and degree in sports management paved the way for her to join the ranks of college coaches in fall 2017.

“I’ve always loved the sport and I wanted to give back to the sport. And now I can get do it as a job,” she said.

She traded in the maroon and white for South Dakota State University’s royal blue and yellow, bought snow boots and loaded up on winter weather gear for her gig as assistant coach.

On April 19 during the 2018 National Collegiate Equestrian Association National Championship, the SDSU reining squad won its first matchup in the event bracket, sending the team to the quarter finals to face Oklahoma State University

Student coaching at Texas A&M gave Logan perspective from the coaches’ side where she learned many lessons and ideas that she could bring to South Dakota State. And her experience as a student athlete has also been key to her success as a coach.

“When you ride at an elite level in both horsemanship and reining, there are little things I can communicate with my girls, and I can really connect with them on that level,” she said.

Learning the recruiting side of coaching, as well as going from a large program at Texas A&M to one that is building a program with a smaller athletic program at South Dakota State have been a few of her bigger challenges.

“I think our program is headed in the right direction, and our girls and I are excited for the future.”

More information on the finals, including each bracket, live scoring and a live webcast, are available at www.collegiateequestrian.com.