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The inaugural season of Southeastern Conference equestrian kicks off on Saturday when No. 1 Texas A&M travels to Brookings, S.D., to take on South Dakota State. The league’s remaining three equestrian squads will begin their 2012-13 campaigns the following weekened.
At the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Fla., this past June, the decision was made for equestrian to become the conference’s 21st sport and the first to be added to the league since softball in 1997.
Legislative action, which took place during the SEC Spring Meetings was necessary to allow for the addition of equestrian. Previously, one-third of league institutions would need to sponsor a sport in order for the conference to hold a championship event in that sport. With 12 members, that number was previous four institutions. With the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M, the new legislation will allow that number to remain at four for the sponsoring of new sports.
Four members of the SEC - Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M - currently sponsor equestrian. The four current members of the SEC are the only teams in the history of the sport to win NCEA Overall Team National Championships. Georgia has tallied a league-leading five overall national championships, including three consecutive from 2008-10. Auburn, South Carolina and Texas A&M each have two overall national titles to their credit.
Collegiate equestrian teams compete in four events at each dual meet and championship competition: English Equitation Over Fences, English Equitation On The Flat, Western Horsemanship and Western Reining. There are two primary disciplines – Hunter Seat (Equitation Over Fences and Equitation On The Flat) and Western (Reining and Horsemanship).
The competitions are 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 their 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.
In 1998, equestrian was placed on the NCAA’s list of “emerging sports.” In order to attain full NCAA championship status, there must be 40 Division I and II schools that sponsor the sport.
The National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) was created to advance the sport of equestrian from emerging to championship status with the NCAA by promoting the benefits of equestrian to potential institutions, riders, parents, horse industry professionals and sponsors while developing the rules and format of competition.
Auburn University has been selected to play host to the inaugural SEC equestrian championship. The event will take place March 29-30, 2013 at the Auburn University Horse Center, which opened in 2002 and is a 60-acre facility located on the edge of Auburn’s campus as part of the Department of Animal Sciences.
Three times in its program history Auburn played host to the Southern Equestrian Championships, a three-team competition between the Tigers, Georgia and South Carolina, doing so in 2004, 2007 and 2010.
Georgia won a league-leading six Southern Equestrian Championship titles, while Auburn captured three and South Carolina one.
With the season’s first meet less than two weeks away, the Auburn equestrian team is gearing up for another successful season. Coming off a top-five finish in both Hunt Seat and Western at the 2012 NCEA National Championships, the Tigers are excited to return many experienced riders, as well as welcome in a talented freshman class. Sophomore Jennifer Delman, junior Jennifer Waxman and senior Lindsay Portela look to lead in Hunt Seat, while juniors Cheyenne Cracraft and Stephanie Rucci and senior all-American Indy Roper will take the reins in Western. Auburn opens its fall portion of the season on Friday, Sept. 28, against Oklahoma State at the Auburn University Horse Center. The Tigers will also play host to new conference opponent Texas A&M and Georgia this fall and travel to South Carolina.
Georgia is looking to build off its successful 2011-12 campaign that saw the Bulldogs go 11-2 in the regular season, including a 10-meet win streak, before capping it off with its third overall reserve title. The Bulldogs return several familiar faces, including All-Americans Carly Anthony (equitation on the flat) and Megan Hawkins (horsemanship). Georgia also returns All-American Honorable Mentions Abby O’Mara (equitation over fences), Kylee Arbuckle (equitation on the flat), Maria Salazar (horsemanship), Paige Stawicki (horsemanship), Samantha Belcher (reining) and McKenzie Lantz (reining).
The 2012-2013 season marks the 16th year of the South Carolina equestrian program as the Gamecocks were the first SEC school to sponsor equestrian as a varsity sport… The Gamecocks open up their 2012-2013 season on Saturday, Sept. 29 when South Carolina hosts defending Big-12 champion Oklahoma State at One Wood Farm in Blythewood, S.C… The Gamecocks return the core of its Hunt Seat team that went 12-2 last year, including senior Kimberly McCormack and sophomore Katherine Schmidt… Schmidt earned All-American honors as she led the entire nation with a 25-7 record last year, while also winning five MVP's… McCormack posted her third-straight year with at least 15 wins as she went 22-5 last year with five MVP's… Carolina's Western team returns a key group of upperclassmen who helped lead the squad to an 8-5 record last year… Redshirt junior Johnna Letchworth was named an All-American in Horsemanship for the second straight year as she posted a 14-3 record and five MVP's, giving her a career record of 29-5-1 with nine MVP's… Seniors Audrey Jewell and Amanda Pope both posted nine wins each for the Gamecocks in reining last year, as freshmen Layla Choate and Cody McMillion combined to go 16-12-2 with four MVP's… South Carolina's freshman class led the team in both total wins and MVP's last year… The Gamecocks officially begin SEC play on Thursday, Oct. 4 when Carolina hosts Auburn at 2 p.m.
The Texas A&M equestrian team owns 11 national championships under head coach Tana McKay and are the reigning NCEA Western Champions and NCEA Overall Champions. The Aggies have won nine western national championships (1 NCEA, 3 IHSA, 5 VENC) and two overall national championships (1 VENC, 1 NCEA). The team secured the 2011 Big 12 Championship and enters the Southeastern Conference (SEC) this season.