Thursday, February 5, 2015

To: Supporters of NCEA Programs

From:  Dr. Leah Holland Fiorentino | Executive Director, NCEA

Re:  The Real Facts about NCEA Programs

I am pleased to note a recent up-tick in the positive-talk about NCEA.  I have received an abundance of email messages in response to the updates posted on the NCEA website (  Thank you for taking the time to connect with me to share your thoughts about collegiate equestrian.  

Now more than ever, it is important that accurate information about NCEA equestrian programs and the NCEA be shared.   Your assistance is crucial as we work to secure and expand the NCAA sport status of women’s equestrian.

To that end, here are some important talking points and current facts:  

Why do NCEA programs matter?
NCEA programs provide the path for our young women equestrian athletes to have the aspirations and dreams of being a college student-athlete. The lessons learned in the riding arena have long lasting effects on the young women who participate in these programs.  Riding in college on a scholarship athlete team levels the playing field for female athletes.

How many women are currently competing in NCAA equestrian programs?
Right now, between750-800 women participate on collegiate equestrian teams and receive the same benefits as all other NCAA student-athletes on their campus
How many D I and II colleges/universities identify equestrian programs within their athletic departments?
Currently, there are 23 colleges/universities that have NCEA Women’s Equestrian programs. Unfortunately two (University of Tennessee-Martin and Kansas State University) have announced their intention to eliminate their programs after the 2015-16 season.

When NCEA student-athletes graduate from college, how are they connected back to the equine industry?
 Of the over 1,100 alumni ,  more than 300 women have moved into positions within the equine industry including 19 veterinarians, 15 vet techs, and 12 students currently enrolled in veterinary schools.

What is the current status of collegiate equestrian within the NCAA?
Equestrian is still listed as an emerging sport within the NCAA, although there is a recommendation to remove equestrian from that list, we are cautiously optimistic about the future of the sport.  An emerging sport is defined as a sport recognized by the NCAA that is intended to provide additional athletic opportunities to female athletes.

How are decisions made relative to the status of collegiate equestrian within the NCAA structure?
In 2002, equestrian was recognized by the NCAA as an emerging sport, a classification which allowed the colleges/universities to include female collegiate equestrians in their data reports to the NCAA and provided opportunities for them to receive the same opportunities as all other NCAA student-athletes on respective campuses.  The emerging sport status required letters of support from 10 schools. The Committee on Women’s Athletics (CWA) is the committee within the NCAA that oversees sports with that classification.  The goal is to move those sports to full NCAA championship status with a minimum of 40 participating schools.

Last fall, the CWA recommended that equestrian be dropped from the emerging sport list as the number of participating schools had remained at 23.  This recommendation has not been reviewed by any other NCAA committees.   While meetings are set for the spring,   it has not been released when this recommendation will be discussed.  Once this recommendation is on the agenda for review, the NCAA could decide against the recommendation, accept the recommendation, or send the recommendation back to the CWA for revision/action.
What happens if the NCAA accepts the recommendation to remove equestrian from the emerging sport list?
If the NCAA should accept the recommendation, the anticipated formal date would August 1, 2017.  At that point the NCEA would work to develop and re-submit (after a required 12 month period) an application for equestrian to be added back on the emerging sport list, an action which requires 15 letters of support from NCAA Division I and II institutions.

What can you do to help maintain these powerful opportunities for women?
The NCEA has opened a donation site on our webpage for supporters who might like to make a financial contribution. Funding will be used to support efforts to secure and expand the NCAA sport status of women’s equestrian, including public relations, video production, marketing, offsetting expenses for the national championship, and support for seed grants to assist in new team start-ups. If you wish to make a donation, please use this link (

Who should you contact for information about NCEA programs?
Dr. Leah Holland Fiorentino is the Executive Director of the NCEA.  The NCEA is leading the coordinated effort to secure the NCAA championship status of women’s equestrian.  You can reach her at

What is the average size of NCEA equestrian teams?
The average team roster size is 41

Is there TV media coverage of NCEA competitive events?
Yes, you can view the SEC conference championship event on the SEC Network.  Live video feeds of the NCEA national championship event will be available through the NCEA website.

Are NCEA programs expensive for colleges/universities?
Collegiate equestrian teams report one of the lowest cost-per-participant averages of all NCAA sports. You can see the relative cost expenditures for each sport on the Equity in Athletics Data Analysis (EADA) site ( This site is maintained by the Office of Postsecondary Education of the US Department of Education.

How long is the NCEA competitive season?
NCEA programs adhere to a 144 practice season which begins in September and concludes with the national championship in mid-April.  Teams schedule a maximum of 15 competition dates during the regular season

What is the NCEA head-to-head competition format?
NCEA programs schedule head-to-head meets which involve two disciplines, Hunter Seat and Western, and consist of four distinct events: Equitation over Fences, Equitation on the Flat, Horsemanship, and Reining. The NCEA format is a head-to-head matchup with a student-athlete from each team riding a designated pattern on the same horse drawn by lot prior to the start of the meet. The competitor awarded the higher score from the judge wins one point for the team. The final team score determines the winner of the meet. As with all other NCAA sports, collegiate equestrians travel only with uniforms and the gear necessary to compete at away meets. A minimum of 11 horses for each discipline are required to host a competition.

Who are our biggest supporters?
The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) are advocates for our program, as are many other equine associations who are helping advance our cause and understand the importance of collegiate equestrian within the Olympic pipeline.  Other support comes from the equine industry – so be sure to ask your favorite vendor if they are part of the NCEA effort.  Of course, alumni and parents keep the flame alive!

Thank you for your continued commitment to NCEA.


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