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College Equestrian Sports and Studies
Students who love to compete with their horses can keep their competitive spirit alive throughout their college careers. Many schools offer the opportunity of membership in clubs and teams which nurture the interest in horses. Additionally, degrees in equine related studies, sometimes combined with degrees in other fields of study, can lead to rewarding careers in the equine industry. The following is a description of a few schools and some of the opportunities they offer:
Asbury University, Wilmore, KY. Asbury is a Christian Liberal Arts school located just south of Lexington, KY. The school offers programs in Equine Studies such Equine Management and Equine Facilitated Therapy majors and minors. A notable equine program at Asbury is the Police Mount program which focuses on starting, finishing and re-training horses for police work. Students of the Equine Program serve as trainers for these horses which begin as weanlings with groundwork and finish with street work, obstacle training, and drill team work. When their training is complete and they are suitable for police mounts, the horses are offered for sale. The Police Mounts program participants were honored to perform a demonstration of their drill maneuvers and other training techniques at the World Equestrian Games in 2010.
Another unique program to Asbury, a major in Equine Facilitated Wellness, prepares a student for work in the mental health field. Students learn to partner with horses to foster healing for a range of mental and physical health issues.
Asbury has several equine teams and clubs. A Vaulting Team, a Western Club and a Hunt Seat Club are just a few of the activities available to students with horse interests. The teams and clubs do not compete but regularly provide demonstrations to showcase their expertise. The university also holds summer horse camps at the Equine Center, providing yet another way for students to provide leadership and service with horses.
For more information about Asbury University, contact the Equine Program Director Harold Rainwater at 859-858-3511 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN Horse Science Program. The faculty and staff of Middle Tennessee State University’s Horse Science Program have been instilling a love of the horse industry in their students since 1968. As part of MTSU’s Agribusiness and Agriscience Department, the Horse Science Program enables students to pursue a range of educational opportunities in horse science. Students can earn either a Bachelor of Science or a Master of Science in Horse Science, and undergraduate minors in Horse Science are also available.
Classes and riding lessons are held at the MTSU Horse Science Center, located just a few miles away from the main campus in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The facility boasts a heated 65-stall barn for school and student horses, a covered arena, multiple outdoor rings, faculty offices, classrooms, and laboratories for research work. Just across the parking lot stands the Tennessee Miller Coliseum, a 4,600-seat event venue that hosts horse shows and other events year-round.
“We have great facilities, allowing us to work all year and in any weather,” says Anne Brzezicki, riding professor and coach of the MTSU equestrian team.
Brzezicki teaches the majority of riding courses at MTSU, which include hunter seat and western disciplines. The classes typically include two hours of lecture and two hours of riding lab each week, and two of the four riding courses require students to ride both English and Western. “Each discipline teaches some skills better than others,” Brzezicki says. “It’s just plain smart to learn about how other parts of the horse industry think and operate.”
In addition to teaching riding courses, Brzezicki coaches the MTSU Equestrian Team, which competes every year at multiple IHSA shows. The Intercollegiate Horse Show Association provides opportunities for riders of all skill levels to compete as individuals and teams at regional, zone, and national levels. Rather than provide their own horses to ride in competitions, IHSA competitors draw their mounts at random from a pool of horses at every show. “Because we compete on horses we draw from those assigned to the class level, riders must learn to figure horses out quickly and communicate with them effectively,” Brzezicki explains. “This makes all-horse skills more important than just learning one horse really well. Riding many horses [is what] really teaches a person to ride well, and if a rider takes all our riding classes and competes fully with the team for their four years with us, they will likely ride about 200 different horses.”
Other extracurricular activities include the Horse Judging Team, coached by Program Director Dr. Dave Whitaker, the MTSU Stock Horse Team, coached by Dr. Holly Spooner and MTSU Barn Manager Jessica Schultz, and the Horsemen’s Association. All the teams and groups are open to all students, not just Horse Science students. For more information, be sure to check out the MTSU Horse Science web site at http://capone.mtsu.edu/horsesci/.
Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS Mississippi State University houses many types of activities, clubs, majors and classes – all centered around equine activities. The mainstay is an undergraduate equine teaching program; there are classes for new riders and horse judging classes; plus there are many equine extracurricular activities.
Mississippi State University houses a rodeo team, an equestrian team, and a horse judging team. These teams are open to any full time undergraduate student. They also offer equine clubs, the Rodeo Club and the Horseman’s Association. Owning a horse is necessary for the Rodeo Team, but the Equestrian Team does not require participants to own their own horse.
Both teams travel to universities throughout their region that host collegiate competitions. The Rodeo Team competes through the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA). The Equestrian Team is a member of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA), and members show in both English and western competitions at several skill/experience levels.
The Horse Judging team requires students to evaluate the conformation and performance potential of horses, as they compete with students from other universities throughout the United States in national competitions. Members of the Horse Judging Team have the potential to win scholarships and prizes.
The equestrian and horse judging coach, Dr. Molly Nicodemus, initiated the first IHSA team in Mississippi when she came to Mississippi State University. She was previously at Missouri State University, and as an undergraduate, received a scholarship for riding on the ISHA hunt and stock teams. She later coached the Michigan State University IHSA team, before coming to Mississippi State.
For more information on the NIRA, go to www.collegerodeo.com
For more information on the IHSA, go to www.ihsainc.com
For more information on the undergraduate equine teaching program, call the Animal and Dairy Sciences department at (662-325-2802).
For more information on the equine activities at Mississippi State, go to www.ads.msstate.edu/docs/students/activities.pdf
Murray State University, Murray, KY. MurrayState proves appealing to Equine students for their academic programs, as well as extracurricular activities. The Hutson School of Agriculture features an Animal and Equine Science Program offering Undergraduate studies focused on Equine Science and Equine Management. These studies include courses such as Basic and Intermediate Horsemanship, Introduction to Rodeo, Beginning to Advanced Hunt Seat Equitation, Equine Exercise Physiology and Equine Health Care and Maintenance, just to name a few.
Appropriately nick-named the “Racers” and boasting a race horse as their mascot, Murray State offers students the opportunity to participate in Equine related extracurricular activities including the Murray State Horseman's Club, IHSA Hunt Team, IHSA Stock Team, Ranch Horse Team, Dressage Team and Rodeo Team. Begun in 1976, the Rodeo team at MSU has grown from only 3 members to nearly 60. Led by coach JD Van Hooser, the organization allows students to compete in National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) sanctioned events within the Ozark region while working toward their degree. Rodeo team members are able to keep their horses on campus at the Heathcott Rodeo Barn, which also has a large outdoor pen for practice. While the University itself offers many academic scholarships, the Rodeo team only has three coveted scholarship opportunities which are awarded to team members based on rodeo activities and ability, as well as academic achievement.
Led by coach Sue Robinson, Murray State also offers additional equine teams. Team members can be anywhere from a beginner to an advanced rider and are not required to have their own horse; school horses are available for use. Tryouts are held in the fall each year for the teams: Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) Hunt Team, IHSA Stock Team, Ranch Horse Team and Dressage Team. Open to all students, membership only requires certain fees, own tack and attire and a minimum GPA of 2.0.
Northwest Mississippi Community College, Senatobia, MS. Northwest Mississippi Community College gives students the opportunity to compete in rodeo events in Junior College. Northwest offers an associate degree in Agricultural Business Management Technology, which includes a Horse Production Class, but students of any major are welcomed to the rodeo team. The rodeo team at Northwest has been around since 1973, and competes in the Ozark region, including Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia. The rodeo season lasts from September until April, and also includes the college finals in June.
The rodeo team competes in nine events. Of these, five are men-only events, including saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, bull riding, tie-down roping, and steer wrestling. The women’s events include barrel racing, breakaway roping, and goat tying. Both men and women can compete in team roping. Participants are required to have a horse for roping, barrel racing, and goat tying events.
Northwest rodeo team coach, Bruce Lee, has been the coach for four years. He previously attended Murray State University, where he was on the rodeo team, and coached there before coming to Northwest.
The University of the South, Sewanee, TN. The University of the South is a small private liberal arts college located in the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee. The Sewanee Equestrian Team is a competitor in the Intercollegiate Horse Show association, Zone 5, Region 1. The team competes in the hunter seat division. The IHSA has levels for all riders, so even students with little or no riding or horse show experience are eligible to try out for the team. All riders are required to try out on a horse drawn from a pool of team horses. Sewanee’s team boasts a winning tradition, with several national and regional championship and reserve championship titles in recent years.
Susan Glover has been named the new Equestrian Center Director at Sewanee. She comes from Virginia Intermont College in Bristol, VA where she served as the Horse Manager/Supervisor of the VI Riding Center and the VI American National Riding Commission Head Coach. She was also an assistant coach for VI’s IHSA team. She has been a Class “A” rated judge for over 25 years, and she was a founding board member for the Tri-Cities Hunter Jumper Association and the East Tennessee Hunter Jumper Association. For more information, visit http://sewaneetigers.com/sports/equest/index/
University of Tennessee at Martin, Martin, TN Animal Science Program & Equestrian Team. The University of Tennessee at Martin provides students with unique educational and competitive opportunities in the horse industry. Undergraduate students can pursue bachelor’s degrees in animal science, plant science, and agriculture. Concentrations are available in production management, communications, veterinary health technology, and more. In addition to the typical animal science and agriculture courses, UT-Martin offers courses in horse science, light horse management, stable management, basic equitation, and other horse-focused classes.
For students interested in riding competitively, the UT-Martin Skyhawk Equestrian Team competes in the National Collegiate Equestrian Association, which enables collegiate equestrians to ride at the varsity level. NCEA holds four events: equitation on the flat, equitation over fences, Western horsemanship, and reining. Like IHSA competitions, NCEA riders draw their mounts from a pool of qualified horses prior to their classes. But unlike IHSA, NCEA competitors ride head-to-head as individuals, and they ride on the same horse. So if Rider #1 on UT-Martin’s team draws Horse A, the competing rider on the opposing team also rides Horse A, and the rider who receives the best score on that horse wins. Horses are typically provided by the school hosting the competition.
“NCEA is different from IHSA in that we receive a four-minute warm-up time [prior to the class],” says Meghan Cunningham Corvin, head coach of the Skyhawk Equestrian Team. “During that time, you can become acquainted with the horse. If it’s over fences, you get [to warm up] over four fences. We recruit our horses like we recruit our riders. We have some very talented horses in our program to allow our student athletes to receive maximum scores and performances.”
Corvin became the team’s inaugural head coach in 2005. Under her guidance, the team has participated in the NCEA Championships every year, with top-ten placings. The team makes its home at Graves Stables on campus. The stables include 10 stalls, three wash racks, and three tack rooms, with an adjacent 250 by 150 foot outdoor arena. While NCEA limits its teams to 15 competitions per season, UT-Martin typically hosts 5-6 competitions each year at the Ned R. McWherter Agricultural Complex, an 82,000 square foot building with a 24,000 square foot indoor arena and seating for 3,200 people.
“The goal is to have a well-balanced schedule of home and away [competitions],” Corvin says. “Our season runs from the start of school to mid-April. We run our home competitions like a gymnastics meet, weather permitting, with both arenas going simultaneously. We very much try to break away from the typical horse show environment. We have music playing while we announce the scores, and we encourage cheering and rooting for your home team like you would at any other collegiate sporting event.”
Youth aged 14-18 who are interested in experiencing the life of a Skyhawk Equestrian can attend UT-Martin’s Premier Equestrian Camp in the summer, which allows students to meet Coach Corvin and her assistant coach, Ashley Thompson, as well as the riders and horses of the equestrian team. During the camp, participants can ride the team’s horses, stay in the UT-Martin dorms, and learn the basics of becoming a student athlete in the NCEA.
For more information on UT-Martin’s animal science and agriculture programs and equestrian team, be sure to check out www.utm.eduand www.utmsports.com.
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN Founded in the fall of 1988 by a group of undergraduate students, the Vanderbilt Equestrian Team (VET) competes in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, Zone 5, Region 1. As a student-run organization, VET team members rely on each other for shows and lessons. The team is currently comprised of club and hunt seat divisions, with members ranging from beginning to seasoned national competitors. Ranking consistently within the top two in their region, team members participate in weekly lessons held at Hunters Court Stables, located in Murfreesboro, TN. The group is currently coached by Matthew Piccolo.
There are a multitude of colleges and universities across the U.S. and the world that offer Equestrian/Equine studies, many with scholarships available. There are several website sources that offer information about them. Take a look at the following sources for more information: Cappex lists 52 colleges in the U.S. at: http://www.cappex.com/colleges/majors/Equestrian/Equine-Studies-670
Horse Schools Online, at http://www.horseschoolsonline.com/is based on the book Horse Schools: The International Guide to Universities, Colleges, Preparatory and Secondary Schools, and Specialty Equine Programs. This website features over 1,000 colleges, universities, preparatory and secondary schools, and programs throughout the world that specialize in equine related studies or riding programs. The website has a search engine for finding schools based on the school’s associations, the school specialty discipline, and the country. There is also a world map of horse schools. Horse World Data offers a list of Horse Schools and Instruction at: http://horseworlddata.com/schools.html Schools in the U.S. are listed alphabetically by state first on the list, then alphabetically by country.
Other helpful resources are:
The National Collegiate Equestrian Association: http://www.collegiateequestrian.com/
Horse Schools.com at http://www.horseschools.com/offers rankings of schools based on ten criteria, plus an overall rating.
The Horse Channel describes Equine Studies Associate Degree Programs: http://www.horsechannel.com/horse-resources/equine-college-associate-degree.aspx
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