In 1998, equestrian was classified as an NCAA emerging sport. At that time, there were six participating teams (Auburn, Fresno State, Georgia, Oklahoma State, South Carolina and Texas A&M). Today, there are currently 22 colleges and universities offering equestrian as a varsity sports and more continue to add the sport each year.
The competition format is head-to-head, where a rider from each team competes on the same horse. The rider earning the highest score on that particular horse wins the point for her team. At the end of the competition, the team with the most points wins the competition. The horse and rider match-up is determined by a random draw.
Prior to their competition ride, each competitor is given a four-minute warm-up (five minutes for reining) to familiarize herself with the horse and prepare for the competition ride. This format of competition was developed to level the playing field between riders and allow each rider the same opportunity on the same horse. There is only one elite level of competition for each of the four events.
The National Collegiate Equestrian Association (formerly Varsity Equestrian) was created to advance the sport of equestrian from emerging to championship status within the NCAA by promoting the benefits of the sport to potential institutions, riders, parents, horse industry professionals and sponsors, while developing the rules and format of competition.
The National Collegiate Equestrian Association Championships are currently held each April in Waco, Texas. Beginning with the 2014 championship, the 12 top teams are invited to compete. Previously, 12 hunter seat and 12 western teams are invited to compete. The NCEA Selection Committee invites these teams based on their win/loss record and other factors throughout the season.
The NCEA Championships are made possible with the help of generous sponsors, volunteers, donors of current universities and local horse trainers. Two nationally recognized and carded judges in both hunter seat and western travel to Texas to judge the four days of competition. More than 200 student-athletes from across the country compete at the NCEA Championships.
In order to attain the goal of reaching NCAA-sponsored status, there must be 40 Division I/II schools that sponsor equestrian at their institutions.
Want equestrian to be your next sport? Find out more about starting an equestrian program at your university).