Just horsin' around...
“We needed to add more female participants to meet Title IX requirements,” said Ann Baer, assistant athletic director.
“At one time we considered adding crew. We have an existing equestrian team with about 30 members. This just makes it easier to convert the program to an intercollegiate level,” she said.
The athletic department will be combining forces with the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources to build a successful program. Each of the area’s strengths should compliment the other nicely.
The four-legged athletes can expect the best of care. The animal science department will care for the horses and provide numerous services. OSU Athletics will search for a coach and handle administrative aspects. In addition to coaching responsibility the individual will teach several animal science courses.
David Freeman, extension equine specialist, said, “This gives us the opportunity to expand our equine program. We can add courses where we couldn’t before.”
The existing equestrian team is an extension of the OSU Horseman’s Association. Students are presently competing at Intercollegiate Horse Show Association-sponsored competitions held at various universities. The team will continue to compete at the IHSA contests, under the direction of the athletic program. The competitions allow participation in western or hunter-jumper type events, with levels of skill varying from beginner to advanced.
“One of the most important benefits of this type of competition is that it really helps promote OSU and its equine program,” said student assistant Cory Cart. “It also gives more opportunities to people to get involved in the university.”
Athletes wishing to join the team will be subject to all NCAA rules concerning eligibility. Practice and recruiting rules will have some effect, but many of the rules will be phased in over a two- or three-year period.
“While athletes must operate under the regulations, they will also reap the benefits. OSU will provide uniforms, the needed tack and other equipment, as well as horses,” Baer said.
“The team will work from the same type of budget as other athletic teams,” she said.
An additional benefit comes in the form of scholarships.
“Beginning in Fall 1999, equestrian will be recognized as an emerging sport. When there are enough teams it will be labeled a sport. As a result it is hard to know how many scholarships will be available,” Baer said.
“I think NCAA may liken it to rowing. In that case there would be 20 scholarships available,” she said. “It is just hard to know right now.”
OSU is not the only university to take this path with their women’s athletics programs. For example, Fresno State University and the University of South Carolina have successful equestrian programs.
“There may be as many as 20 teams nationally,” Baer said. “There also are a few within the Big 12 ... at this time there are three or four Big XII schools looking at establishing an equestrian program, but they haven’t announced it yet. We hope to be on the cutting edge.”
At this time the addition of a new sports facility will not be an issue. Existing facilities will serve as adequate locations for any competitions or activities. A new barn will be added for saddling purposes, Baer said.
“We have the capabilities to make this doable and affordable,” Freeman said. “They know a lot about athletics, and we know a lot about horses. Together we have developed a plan to bring this to the NCAA level.”
By Kara Clark