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Emerging Leader: LCCC Coach Morgan Pennington earns AQHA award

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

In the middle of the busy spring for collegiate stock and ranch horse coaches, Laramie County Community College (LCCC) Equine Instructor and Ranch Horse and Equestrian Team Coach Morgan Pennington received news she has been recognized as an American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Emerging Leader for 2023. 

This award recognizes AQHA members, ages 21-35, for their accomplishments. 

According to AQHA, “Young adult AQHA members are eligible for nomination for the new AQHA Emerging Leader Award. Honorees are formally recognized each year during a plaque presentation at the AQHA Convention.”

In order to win this award, Morgan was nominated by her mentor Dr. Joe Armstrong of New Mexico State University and had two additional references.

“This award is all about service, passion and education in the equine industry, and it’s an honor to be one of the eight selected for the 2023 class,” Morgan says.

Morgan came to LCCC in the fall of 2021 and has made it a point to build up numerous equine programs in the college. She serves as the Western riding coach for the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (ISHA) Team and the head coach for the Ranch Horse Team. 

Competitive teams 

The ISHA’s mission is “to provide equestrian competition for all college and university students regardless of riding level, gender, race, sexual orientation or financial status. The IHSA is dedicated to promoting sportsmanship, horsemanship and academic excellence.”

According to LCCC, “Students can compete in horsemanship, ranch riding, reining, hunt seat equitation and equitation over fences. They may specialize in English or Western events, although most students at LCCC compete in both.” 

“Students will draw horses for each event, and therefore, experience riding different types and levels of horses is an advantage,” LCCC continues.

Morgan notes this is a really special program as it removes the financial strain of owning a horse in college and allows a wider range of students to compete. 

Students interested in competitive equine events at LCCC can also try out for the Ranch Horse Team. 

According to LCCC, “The Ranch Horse Team competes in stock horse, reined cow horse and ranch versatility events across the nation. These events are aimed toward advancing horsemanship skills in a setting which would be useful on a working ranch.” 

All members compete in working cow horse, reining, ranch trail and ranch riding classes on a personal horse. 

The collegiate ranch horse program is sanctioned by the National Intercollegiate Ranch and Stock Horse Association (NIRSHA).

According to NIRSHA, the association was founded in 2021 by collegiate ranch and stock horse team coaches across the nation. The mission of NIRSHA is to provide competition and education for students through the guidance and promotion of collegiate ranch and stock horse events.

This year, members of the LCCC Ranch Horse Team competed at the NIRSHA Finals in Amarillo, Texas with teams from across the nation. LCCC finished fourth place in the Division II Collegiate Nationals, and student Wacey Flack earned seventh in the Limited Non-Pro Division. 

Prospective students interested in competitive equine teams at LCCC can enjoy the benefits of the program by being funded and/or receiving scholarships available for riders. 

“This is a benefit a lot of schools don’t have,” Morgan says. “A lot of programs have to fundraise every penny to get down the road and compete, but we are blessed to be able to pay for students to compete.”

Growing programs 

“Going forward, we are seeing tremendous growth in these programs in terms of both interest in the programs themselves, as well as improvement in the riders,” Morgan says. “We are continuing to be one of the more competitive schools in the region and having the opportunity at a college like this is really driving interest in the event and interest for younger riders.” 

“I believe the ranch horse program especially fits the region and community in Cheyenne, and it will continue to grow,” she adds. 

Morgan says LCCC is also excited to host their annual riding camp July 10-13 in Cheyenne. 

Students can either attend the horsemanship and hunt seat portion on July 10-11 or just the ranch horse versatility and reining portion July 12-13. Students interested in both events are welcome to attend all four days. Campers will be required to bring a horse. 

The clinic is aimed towards riders aged 12-18 and is $225 for each portion of the camp, which includes stalling.

For more information about LCCC equine programs, visit or contact Morgan at 

Callie Hanson is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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