The Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association has announced that Sweet Briar alumna Margaret “Peggy” McElveen will become the 24th recipient of the IHSA Lifetime Achievement Award. McElveen, who graduated from the College in 1971, is director of equestrian studies at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, N.C.
The honor, which the IHSA has awarded since 1993 to “recognize the longstanding commitment of its college and university coaches,” will be presented during the 45th IHSA National Championships, May 4-7, at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
In making the announcement, the IHSA called McElveen “one of the most popular equestrian team coaches in Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) history.” She is being recognized for her service and contributions to college riding and the horse industry.
For McElveen, the award is affirmation of a career in service to equestrian sports and horsemanship.
“I was very surprised and just extremely grateful,” McElveen said of receiving the honor. “That kind of recognition from colleagues you’ve looked up to for years is overwhelming.”
The way the news was delivered made it more of a shock. It came at the end of a four-day meeting of the IHSA’s board of directors. IHSA founder Bob Cacchione got up to speak at a gala event celebrating the association’s 50th anniversary — an event at which he was being honored, she said. He told the audience there was some business to attend to first, and he began talking about her, she recalled, as a prelude to announcing the award.
“To look back on the other twenty-three people that share this great honor is very humbling,” she said. “That’s the only way I can put it.”
As director of the equestrian program at St. Andrews, McElveen oversees everything from coaching and recruiting riders to looking at prospective donation horses, according to the announcement. She also is a faculty member, teaching equine studies.
Prior to joining St. Andrews in 2000, she was coach of the North Carolina State University and Peace College IHSA teams at MacNair’s Country Acres in Raleigh. She served for 16 years as associate director of the Raleigh YMCA Camp Seafarer and was a certified camp director with the American Camping Association. In the 1970s, she also coached the University of South Carolina IHSA team.
McElveen is a dedicated member of several committees and boards serving the equestrian community, including the IHSA, American National Riding Commission, US Equestrian Federation, US Hunter Jumper Association and North Carolina Horse Council. She was recognized in 2011 by USHJA as Affiliate Instructor of the Year and in 2012 by IHSA with the Pioneer Award.
Although McElveen had a strong riding background when she arrived at Sweet Briar, coaching was not part of her career plans at the time. She earned her B.A. in American history and literature, and took advanced French classes with the goal of working as an interpreter.
As a student, though, she served on the Riding Council and became a riding leader. She participated in hunter shows and earned her rider rating from the American National Riding Commission, a collegiate equestrian affiliation predicated on the American System of Forward Riding.
She also worked all four years at the stable cleaning tack for the College and students who boarded their horses, she says. Her experiences taught her a lot about customer service and accountability, as well as horsemanship.
Much of that McElveen credits to then-riding director Paul Cronin, who arrived at Sweet Briar the same year she did. She was expecting Clayton Bailey, Cronin’s predecessor, whom she knew from his visits to her home stable in Columbia, S.C., to teach clinics. Bailey was the reason she chose, Sweet Briar, she said.
But Cronin’s tutelage quickly became an influence on her as a student and he continued be a mentor to her after graduation, she says.
“Sweet Briar helped determine my life’s path, there’s no question about that,” she says. “I’ve been blessed to have only worked at jobs that I adore.”
When McElveen attended, Sweet Briar did not have an IHSA team. The association promotes competition for riders of all skill levels who compete individually and as teams at regional to national levels. Its founding principle is that any college student should be able to participate in horse shows regardless of financial status or riding level.
Sweet Briar’s IHSA team competes in the same zone as St. Andrews. The two schools are in regions 2 and 3 respectively in the IHSA’s Zone 4.
Visit www.ihsainc.com for results and coverage from the IHSA National Championships and 50th anniversary celebration. Visit sbc.edu/news for Sweet Briar results.