Equestrian team strives for more visibility


While the phrase “Agricultural College,” was removed from the official name of Kansas State University in March 1959, agriculture has remained prominent within Manhattan and throughout the university.
    It is easy to see this aspect of the university in the academic field with the many opportunities to earn degrees in agriculture. However, there is also a group within the student body promoting this rich heritage throughout the nation athletically as well.
    That group is the nationally recognized equestrian team.
    Head hunter coach Ashley Foster thinks promoting the K-State agricultural heritage on the athletic field is beneficial to the university as it creates a link between academics and athletics. 
    “I think it’s great because you bring the agriculture into the Division I arena,” Foster said. “It’s really neat to be able to bridge that gap, because when you think of an agricultural school and you think of everything involved with farming … you don’t really think of sports, so it’s neat that horses can be in a Division I sport.”
    The K-State Equestrian team competes in NCAA showings and is among the nation’s prestigious programs, consistently reaching regional and national showings.
    Because equestrian is cast in the shadow of big market sports like football and basketball, the opportunity for education regarding the sport is limited, and Foster said the sport is often difficult to appreciate and understand. K-State was host to the central championships last year, which is the equestrian equivalent to the Big 12 Conference Championship.
    “One of the hardest things that we are faced with is when you come out to a competition, it’s hard to figure what on earth is going on,” Foster said.
    Head Western coach Casie Williamson said the members of the team, along with coaches, help to promote their sport outside the arena. Coaches have promoted equestrian at Catbacker and Lions Club meetings.
    “The girls on the team really help promote our sport,” Williamson said. “They talk to everyone about what they do and how the team works and it always seems to draw an interest.”
    With new NCAA rules in place, equestrian has adopted a head-to-head competition format. Riders on each team compete against one another in four events.
    “The aspect of it being a head-to-head competition has helped promote our sport a little bit more,” Foster said.
    The first of these events is Equitation on the Flat, in which the riders are judged on their ability to ride their horses in the correct manner and control the horses.
    The second event is Equitation over Fences in which the riders are challenged with 8-10 fences to jump over. The final two events include horsemanship and reining.
    Williamson thinks the team is improving greatly in reining this season.
    “Our reining team is incredibly talented and growing by the day,” Williamsonon said.   
     The equestrian team began this season with a tough weekend showing in South Carolina and Georgia and was handed two losses. However, they will look to bounce back this weekend when they face powerhouse Texas A&M at home at the Fox Creek Farms.
    With a week to prepare for the showing against the Aggies, Foster has had the team lay off conditioning and training to work on patterns. She said she has been pleased with this week’s results and feels prepared heading into the weekend’s showing.
    “Everyone who will be showing rode, and they are all looking like they are close to the top of their game,” Foster said. “I like how they are riding right now, which makes me feel confident going into this weekend.”
    After finishing third in the Central Championships last season, Foster and the team have set goals of reaching nationals this year, which will be in Waco, Texas.
    “To win at that level means you have a solid group of riders,” Foster said. “You don’t have just one outstanding rider — your whole team has to be outstanding. It would mean we have a well-rounded team.
    “I know we do, it’s just getting there and making things happen at the right moment.”