By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – 1 vs. 1.
The top-two teams in the Southeastern Conference and the nation will meet this weekend and it won’t take place on the gridiron.
I’m talking about the SEC’s newest sport – equestrian – which, as is no surprise given the success of other sports in the league, is dominating the national landscape. Four SEC schools sponsor the sport of equestrian – Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M – and those also are the nation’s top-four programs in the preseason coaches’ poll.
Georgia and Texas A&M are both tied for No. 1 in the nation and they are slated to square off on Sunday morning in Bishop, Ga., in the first-ever official SEC vs. SEC equestrian competition.
How’s that for an inaugural meet?
In equestrian terms, this competition is the equivalent to last season’s LSU vs. Alabama football regular-season game in Tuscaloosa.
I will be traveling to the meet on Sunday and, though I have been working with the sport as its media relations contact since June, it will be my first time to see the equestrian in person as well.
There’s another comparison you can make to SEC football as well. It’s not just this singular match-up that features the top squads in the sport; you will see these kinds of battles every week in SEC equestrian.
Remember last year when the SEC West at one point boasted the top-three teams in the BCS standings? That’s similar to what you can expect with equestrian on a yearly basis.
Give or take a few years, the equestrian programs of the SEC are about a decade old, at least as far as their varsity status is considered. At the SEC Spring Meetings in June, the league approved the addition of equestrian as the 21st SEC sport, beginning with the 2012-13 academic year.
Here’s a staggering statistic for you – the NCEA began contesting an overall team national championship beginning in 2002. Since that time, the only programs to ever win a national title are the current four members of the SEC. In fact, each SEC program has won at least two national championships.
Texas A&M is the defending NCEA overall team national champion and Georgia has won a league-leading five NCEA overall team titles.
You may not have much familiarity with the sport of equestrian, but the event is much like any other SEC competition: elite-level athletes, high energy and plenty of action sure to keep you interested every second of the way.
The best way to make sense of it all at your first-ever competition is to think of a gymnastics meet. There are four total events (as part of two disciplines) that take place at each competition. Equitation Over Fences and Equitation On The Flat (hunter seat) and Horsemanship and Reining (western).
Each event features five athletes from each team competing head-to-head using the same horse in each match-up. The individual victories in each event make up the final team score for a total of 20 points in the meet. Therefore, 11 or more points would guarantee a team victory. In the event of a 10-all tie, it comes down to a raw score that determines the winner.
Under the current format utilized by the SEC institutions (the league office currently has no governance of regular-season scheduling, similar to track and field), each league school faces each other home and away during the course of the regular season.
The inaugural SEC Championships are scheduled to take place March 29-30 at Auburn, Ala.
For further reading on SEC equestrian, check out the following links below:
SEC Equestrian History
SEC Equestrian Frequently Asked Questions
SEC Equestrian Weekly Release and Statistics