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Serious Horseplay

May 27, 2008

For the second year in a row, Baylor and the Heart O' Texas Fair Complex played host to the Varsity Equestrian National Championships (VENC), April 17-19. The Bears' hunter seat team earned its top showing in the program's three-year history, finishing sixth nationally, while the western team tied for ninth.

Junior Nicole Brown came up two points shy of an individual national championship, losing 162-160 in the Equitation Over Fences title match. This year was the first to offer individual events. Brown was one of four riders selected nationwide for Equitation Over Fences after winning MVP honors eight times in the event this season.

Two of the program's horses were honored at the VENC, as well. Caleb, an Oldenburg stallion owned by head coach Ellen White, BA '81, was named the Most Valuable Horse in Equitation on the Flat. Maverick, a Baylor-owned Dutch Warmblood gelding donated by B.J. Strong, earned the same honor in Equitation Over Fences.

Currently classified as an "NCAA emerging sport," 23 schools sponsor varsity equestrian teams; to advance to full NCAA championship status, that number must reach 40. Besides Baylor, three other Big 12 schools (Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M) have added varsity squads since 1999. Auburn, Fresno State, Georgia, Minnesota, South Carolina, SMU and TCU are among the other universities participating.

Baylor will host the VENC again next April, marking three straight years the event will have been held in Waco.

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