The Collegiate Equestrian: Part 2

This week we will wrap up the two-part series about being a collegiate equestrian athlete. For part two, rodeo will be our topic. Being a college rodeo star is a bit different than what we talked about last week. Students have the opportunity to either compete for a team or individually in this fast and intense sport.

The National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association has grown tremendously since its start in August of 1949. The NIRA was originally discussed by twelve schools at a meeting on November 6, 1948. Today, this association consists of 3,500 students, 137 schools/universities, and over 100 rodeos a year. There are 11 regions located all across the United States.

These athletes compete in the following events: saddle bronc riding, bare back riding, bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, team roping, barrel racing, breakaway roping, and goat tying. Divisions are split up by overall men’s team, women’s team, men’s all-around competitor, women’s all-around competitor, and the individual events listed above.

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The College National Finals Rodeo are where the NIRA crowns individual event champs. Team championships are also awarded to both men and women teams. Contestants compete all year in one of the NIRA’s 11 regions for a chance to rope or ride at the CNFR. The top three students in each event, and top two men’s/women’s teams from the regions qualify. This event is held in Casper, Wyoming every year.

To be considered for membership in the NIRA, a student must be attending a college or university listed in the current publication of Accredited Institutions of Post Secondary Education. The student must be in good standing while taking at least 12 academic credit hours (9 of which are passed credits) each term and maintaining a 2.0 grade point average (GPA) at all times.

A student has 6 years of eligibility from the date of high school graduation to purchase 4 NIRA membership cards. In the case of GED certification, the contestant's 18th birthday is used as the beginning eligibility date.

Riders can also compete without being part of a university team. Students can compete as individuals through the International Professional Rodeo Association, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, or others. The IPRA puts on the International Finals Rodeo at the beginning of every year in Oklahoma City at the State Fair Arena. The PRCA championship is none other than the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. The sport’s world champions are crowned at the conclusion of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER, based on total season earnings at PRCA rodeos across the continent, including monies earned at the Wrangler NFR.

Whether it be on a university/college team or as an individual, these students are tremendous athletes. They draw in crowds whenever they compete. Find a rodeo close to you and see for yourself how great the competition can be!

~ Courtney Hall

Photos courtesy of NIRA, CNFR, and Rodeo News