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Playin' the Ponies

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Want to know about our Equestrian Team?

This is not the Baylor Equestrian team.
This is not the Baylor Equestrian team.
Derek Leung

Baylor added its 18th Sport – Equestrian – back in 2006. Everyone knew at the time, and knows now, that the sport is not a revenue sport, but a Title IX sport. And, before you get on your high horse (pun intended) about Title IX, remember that the goal is to allow female athletes the same chance at a scholarship education as male athletes have. It’s also chance for the ladies to participate in sports that they excel in. When you put it that way, it’s hard to say that Title IX is a bad thing. By the same token, it doesn’t mean that the whole world has to have the same passion for Olympic sports as we all do for football and basketball.

What’s the Equestrian Game Anyway?

There are two disciplines – and they are completely different. It’s not like offense and defense are different; more like tennis and squash are different. Each equestrian discipline comes from a historical perspective. The western discipline is cowboy riding. The moves are largely based on herding cattle. The hunt seat discipline has its origin in military riding - asking the horse to perform moves that help the rider attack or defend. It doesn’t look like that so much when you’re at the competition, but there you have it.

The BU team schedules competition like any other sport – home and away meets for every Big 12 team…random competitions, especially with SEC teams, fill out the fall schedule and the spring schedule.

Here’s an interesting twist.  When you compete at home, you ride the horses that your team has trained; when you compete away, your ride the horses the home team has trained.  Riders get 4-5 minutes to ride the horse they have drawn, and then they are scored.  Riders compete head-to-head against a rider from the opposing team that is riding the same horse in the same discipline.  Whichever rider gets the highest score from the judge wins a point for the team.  There are usually 10 riders in each discipline – 20 total points.  Complicated tie breaking rules if the score is 10-10.

Wait – We have to Ride the Other Team’s Horse?

Yep…you’re starting to get an appreciation for the skill required. The athletes really are so good that they can make a horse they just sat on go in a circle when they want, slow down or speed up on command, and go from full speed to sliding stop on a dime. To be fair, this ain’t the horse’s first rodeo (pun intended), so they know how to move. Hunt seat horses like to jump over fences, and western horses are fully capable of sliding to a stop. But the point awarded is for the rider – her apparently effortless control and her precision in directing the horse.

Will I figure it out if I come to the Competition?

Scoring – There’s no hope for most of us. Appreciation for what these athletes can do? Easy. Going to the Equestrian meet is a nice afternoon at the farm. The athletes support each other in surprising horsey ways. Lots of families bring kids to the Willis Family Equestrian Center, and they get to feed carrots to the horses at a break. There’s music, Dr. Pepper, food and (believe it or not) tailgating! Any of the team members in the stands will be happy to answer your questions, and they can even tell you about the rivalry with some Big 12 and SEC teams (be careful bringing up the Aggies – you might be listening for a while)

Are We Any Good?

We are awesome. We’re consistently ranked in the Top 10 nationally. We’ve won a Big 12 Championship (got the rings to prove it). We’ve won a National Championship (again…rings and banners). In our opening Big 12 competition in 2014, we knocked off OSU – then ranked #2 in the National Poll (we were #4).

What’s Coming Up?

Weekend of October 24-25, we have Georgia coming to Waco from Athens, and TCU coming in (Back to back). Both have good teams. Colleges with Veterinary schools or animal science degrees (like UGA) tend to attract equestrians, and TCU is in the heart of cowgirl country. Lest you think that this is a polite sport, I can assure you that buckets of Bulldog tears and the fragrant smell of smashed Froggies pleases the Equestrian team greatly. We could move up in the National ranking to #1 or #2 if we beat both this weekend.