Equestrian gets a breath of life

Sport given extended time to prove its growth

Collegiate equestrian has been in a state of turmoil recently, but the sport scored a win, at least for the time being, in late July, giving the SDSU Equestrian team the opportunity to continue to prepare for this year’s competition under first year head coach Ellie Wilkins.

The Jacks return all-American Mariah Wright, as well as All-American honorable Mentions Murielle Golden and Miranda Sullivan. Though the SDSU team has traditionally been stronger in Western, Wilkins expects the team’s Hunt Seat riders to score similarly well this year, providing a more balanced team. 

Speaking at SDSU’s Fall Media Day, Wilkins, who was promoted when Megan Rossiter left the program in the summer, made her first official comments in regards to the uncertain nature of equestrian.

“I would like to thank the administration for their unwavering support that has allowed us to focus on making this upcoming season great,” Wilkins said. “Our team has experienced a great deal of change the last few years, but I am confident this group will find new successes.”

In October of 2014, the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics recommended that the Association remove equestrian from the list of emerging sports for women after 13 years in the program.

The committee made the recommendation to the Division I Leadership Council and the Division II Management Council based on the legislative requirements of the emerging sports program. Emerging sports must reach the championship sponsorship minimum of 40 schools within 10 years or show steady progress toward that mark. Equestrian hit the 10-year limit in 2012, and, despite remaining as a emerging sport for three extra years, the number of schools sponsoring it has stalled at 23.

The National Collegiate Equestrian Association responded to this problem by almost completely restructuring and hiring Dr. Leah Floritino to head the organization as they attempt to jumpstart the growth that the sport seemed to be showing less than a decade ago.

The fate of collegiate equestrian hung in limbo until July, when the NCAA Strategic Vision and Planning Committee voted that it would continue its support of equestrian by tabling the CWA’s recommendation to remove equestrian from the list of NCAA sports.

By tabling the decision, they effectively gave the NCEA more time to show that the sport still has growth potential and allowed the 23 programs already operating to continue business as usual for at least one more season.