The SDSU Athletic Department is breaking new ground by adding equine sports to its roster.
The University of Minnesota in Crookston is the closest Division II school while the majority of the Division I schools lay on the East and West Coast.
About 500 to 600 students compete at the 4-H level in South Dakota. It is an expensive program so most high schools in the state do not offer an equestrian program.
This provides a great opportunity for a lot of students who would have had to pay the out-of-pocket expense of competing.
SDSU plans to spend $400,000 to launch the program. It will permanently lease Pegasus Equine Center, add a larger indoor riding arena and expand the indoor stables.
SDSU will offer five scholarships to kick off the program and will ease its way into ten more by 2010.
Many South Dakota students at the middle and high school level have to give up competing once they get to college, because very few colleges offer it and the cost is too high.
Last year, only four students at SDSU competed in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, which is the main competitive organization that hosts equestrian events. With a university sponsorship more students will have the ability to compete.
Assistant Athletic Department Director Rob Peterson said the school has been considering adding a new sport for about four years. The department considered rifle shooting and gymnastics.
However, an equine sports program serves the mission of a land-grant university and a university in this state. It will also allow for the addition of more horse classes on campus.
The athletic department will hire a coach this summer and start recruiting students next year. The department hopes to have at least 60 students on the team by the time they start competing in fall 2005. Some Division 1 schools have over 100 members.
There is a wide range of equestrian sports, but presumably this means that students would be competing in events such as reigning, horsemanship, jumping, western riding patters in addition to many others.
The program opens the school and South Dakota to a student population it might not have had before.
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