6 things you should know about Baylor EquestrianJuly 5, 2012
Less than two weeks after the Lady Bears won the 2012 women's basketball NCAA title, Baylor equestrian's hunter seat squad, led by head coach Ellen White, brought home another national championship. Though complicated to the casual observer, equestrian actually has a lot in common with other sports. Given the Baylor team's success this spring, this seemed like a good time to share...
6 things you should know about Baylor Equestrian
- Like track and field, varsity equestrian matches actually incorporate several different events. First, you have two divisions, hunter seat and western, similar to track and field. And just as track and field each have separate events (100-meter dash, 400-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, etc.), hunter seat has fences and flat, while western has horsemanship and reining. Fences involves jumping a series of fences (up to 3 feet, 6 inches); reining means leading the horse through one of 10 set patterns around the arena using an assigned series of gaits. Horsemanship and flat both involve riding a unique pattern only revealed two weeks before the event.
- Like figure skating, scoring is determined by a judge. A single judge scores every ride for the entire match, primarily looking at how well the rider performed the course or pattern she was given. Complicating the matter is that the riders don't bring their own horses; they draw from a pool provided by the home team. Each rider gets four minutes to "test-drive" the horse before going out to perform, during which time they must learn that horse's idiosyncrasies. Then they have to go out and perform; if it looks easy, then the rider is probably doing a good job.
- Like collegiate tennis, team scores are based on individual head-to-head results. Each horse is ridden by a participant from each team. So if Baylor is competing against Texas A&M, then both Betty Baylor and Ali Aggie ride Skippy; whichever rider performs better on that horse wins and gets a point for her team. Add up all the points earned by each team across fences, flat, horsemanship and reining, and you get a team champion.
- Like football, equestrian teams can carry a large roster. The average roster size for the sport is about 60; Baylor's team is large at more than 80 members. But the extra numbers help when it comes time to host a match; besides the 20-24 competitors, you need extras to warm up the horses, demonstrate each event for the judge, assist the judge, video the competition, etc. Each girl also helps take care of the barn and Baylor's stable of 50-plus horses.
- Like baseball's College World Series in Omaha, the national equestrian championships have found a home in Waco. Baylor has hosted the National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) National Championship at Waco's Extraco Events Center for each of the last six years and has been given the nod to host through at least 2015. Throughout the year, the team trains and hosts matches at the Willis Family Equestrian Center, about a mile down University Parks Drive from the Ferrell Center, but Baylor utilizes the Extraco Events Center to host the larger national championship.
- Like every other sport at Baylor, the equestrian team is good. The Bears have qualified for the NCEA championships in both hunter seat and western each year since the program began in 2006. In April, Baylor's hunter seat team fought through the 12-team bracket to claim the national championship, the program's first. Overall (combining hunter seat and western), the Bears finished third in the nation for 2012.