Sports Blog: The Down-Low on the SMU Equestrian Team

November 2, 2009  

Posted By: Kimmy Ryan

Horseback riding is a college sport? Does SMU even have a team? Doesn’t the horse do all the work?

Well, yes, although most students probably don’t know it, SMU does have a Division 1 equestrian team. And, no, the horse does not do all the work. Many people do not understand what exactly being an equestrian athlete entails, much less a collegiate equestrian athlete.

Here’s how college riding works:

Each school has their own horses. There are two divisions SMU competes in: Equitation over Fences and Equitation on the Flat. Equitation means that the judges are judging the rider and not the horse; in other words, it’s all about how good the rider looks while controlling the horse. Over Fences means there is a course of approximately 8 jumps that the rider completes. On the Flat is when the rider is told to perform different gates—walk, trot, and canter.

SMU chooses its top six riders for each division. The riders on each team choose a horse’s name out of a hat. Let’s say Lauren Liberman, an SMU over-fence rider, chooses Big Brown out of the hat. She would compete against the opponent’s over-fence rider who also chooses Big Brown.

The riders get very little warm-up time. There is a big advantage if you are the home team because you have most likely ridden all the horses before and know their strengths and weaknesses.

After Liberman completes the course, she receives a score from the judges out of 100 (100 being a perfect score). If her score is higher than her opponent’s score on Big Brown, then she receives one point for her team.

The team with the most points in the end wins.

Those are the basic rules for collegiate horseback riding. It is very different than any other sport because unlike soccer or basketball, the athlete has to control a large animal. SMU horseback riders are serious athletes who sweat it out in the gym and in the ring just like any other team. So, next time you here about the SMU horseback riding team, you can impress your friends with your vast equestrian knowledge.

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