Collegiate Equestrian – IHSA and NCEA
If you’re like me, your Facebook and Twitter feed has been exploding with posts and articles about collegiate equestrian. This is because the NCAA is recommending that collegiate equestrian be removed from the list of emerging sports after 13 years. This is because based on legislative requirements, the sport is supposed to reach 40 sponsoring schools within 10 years to reach championship status. Women’s collegiate equestrian has only gotten to 23 sponsoring schools and hasn’t been making significant progress in the last 3 or 4 years. In addition, Kansas State and Tennessee – Martin will be dropping the program after the 2015-16 season. The National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) is working hard to reverse the decision and is continuing to educate schools in how they can provide sponsorship to equestrian programs. Personally, being part of a team doing something I love has made my college experience amazing and I hope there continues to be this opportunity available for all equestrian athletes in the future!
Although I am not a part of an NCAA team, I compete as part of the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities’ Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) western and hunt seat teams. This format differs from NCAA in that all levels of riders are welcome to compete and the format of competition is not head-to-head. I am in my 4th year in the program and have served as captain and president of my club. We travel around the Midwest for shows as well as hosting our own competitions. This past weekend was my last regular season show as an undergraduate and being there made me think back on all the wonderful memories I have made.
For anyone considering joining a collegiate equestrian team weather it is NCAA or IHSA I would definitely, 100% recommend it. I have made my best friends and most important relationships because of the team. I most appreciate being able to improve my skills and also learning how to ride true reining horses which is something I have always wanted to do. Due to the fact that NCAA schools do recruiting and try to find the best riders for their certain discipline, there is less opportunity to compete in multiple events. For me being part of IHSA, there is no recruiting so I was able to compete in over fences, equitation on the flat, horsemanship and reining. For this reason I was able to take some incredible lessons from some incredible trainers in the industry.
To give some personal insight into an NCAA rider, I interviewed Lauren DeVoe. She rides horsemanship for the New Mexico State University equestrian team. Lauren recently won the 2014 Collegiate Horsemanship Challenge at the AQHA World Show in Oklahoma City. There she competed against 15 other of the nations top collegiate riders. Eight riders representing the NCEA and eight were representing IHSA. This is what she had to say:
1. What has been the best aspect of being a part of an NCAA Equestrian team?
Where to begin! Being on the Equestrian team has presented me with so many amazing opportunities, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. The best aspect though would have to be just being on a team. Growing up showing horses, I never really had time to be on a team sport and showing it was always just me and my horse. Being on a team I have made priceless friendships and have gotten to share these experiences with a great group of girls. It’s so nice having teammates to cheer you on, or encourage you when you’ve had a bad ride. We all support each other and have a lot of fun together.
2. What has been the most difficult part?
Probably the most difficult part has just been overall organizing my time. As with any other student athlete, we are always very busy with a lot of things on our plate. Between workouts, practice, study hours, travel, and homework, I am always on the go. It has been a good thing because it’s taught me really great time management skills. Being so far from home has also been hard, I miss my family but I have become much more independent and responsible.
3. You are a senior now. Looking back, what is the best memory you have while you have been competing on the team?
This is a tough one! There’s so many amazing memories, it’s really hard to pick just one. So I’d have to say traveling with the team. I have gotten to go to so many new places and see different parts of the country. Without the team, I wouldn’t have had those chances. Every team trip is so fun and it’s a great chance for all of us to bond. We have spent many hours together in the bus, or at the airport and we always find ways to entertain ourselves. One trip I’ll never forget is my freshman year when we went to compete at Tennessee Martin. We had an extra day and got to go to Nashville and visit the Gaylord OpryLand Hotel and see downtown. It was a really cool trip and we all had a great time. But overall, traveling with the team is probably my favorite because we all just have so much fun together whether we’re in downtown Nashville, or middle of nowhere Brookings, South Dakota :) Being on the team I also got the chance to go to the World Show and compete in the horsemanship challenge which is something I will always be thankful for. It was an amazing experience and truly one of the best days of my life.
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