Monday, August 29, 2016 | by Kyle Heck |

During her high school career in Arizona, Paige Linne found out that Texas A&M had an equestrian team and immediately made a goal. She was going to do everything she could to be a member of the Aggies' equestrian team. Linne had several family members, including both of her parents, that attended the school, so naturally she wanted to follow in their footsteps.

Linne began competing for the Texas A&M stock horse team, a club team that participates in a collegiate division of stock horse shows, during the fall of her freshman year in 2011. While competing with the stock horse team, Linne went to walk-on tryouts for the varsity equestrian team, where she made the cut and crossed that No. 1 goal off her list.

Hard work, determination and dedication allowed Linne to make the team, but they weren't traits that just showed up in college. She was raised with those values, and it showed in high school as she was part of several programs while also helping out her community and church.

With Linne recently wrapping up her career on the Texas A&M equestrian team, she immediately started the next chapter of her journey, first by enrolling in the Masters of Equine Industry Management program at Texas A&M, and then by becoming the first graduate student to intern with the National Collegiate Equestrian Association this summer.

Linne had many responsibilities during her internship, including helping to find sponsors and funding, communicating with administrators at prospective schools all over the country and developing handbooks, among other things.

"This internship has been an invaluable opportunity for me to learn about the other side of the sport," Linne said. "I am thankful to (Texas A&M senior associate athletics director for facilities and construction) Mr. (Kevin) Hurley for making this internship possible for me, offering to house me in A&M athletics, and challenging me to grow throughout the process. Additionally, the A&M coaching staff, (Texas A&M equine professors) Dr. (Jim) Heird and Dr. (Anna) Morrison have been valuable mentors to me throughout my career at A&M and through this internship. I owe a big thank you to (Texas A&M equestrian head coach) Tana McKay especially, for letting me set up shop in her office from time to time and pick her brain on a variety of topics."

During her time with the NCEA, Linne showed an ability to get things done, and made an impact on those she worked with.

"Paige’s work ethic was obvious from the first day," NCEA executive director Leah Fiorentino said. "She worked closely with the new school initiative and became an active member of the Sport Advancement Committee. Her attention to detail and her written communication skills were called into play in the development of information materials for the athletic directors considering the addition of equestrian as a sport at their schools."

With the NCEA internship, Linne was able to learn a lot more about the sport of equestrian in general, and came away from the experience with an entirely new appreciation for how much work goes on behind the scenes.

"I knew I loved the sport from the position of a student-athlete, but this internship exposed me to important facets of the sport - from what it takes for a school to start a new team, fundraising efforts and the overall structure of college equestrian programs," Linne said. "I hope to continue to be an advocate for the sport in whatever way I can."

The chances of Linne continuing to make an impact on the sport are definitely high. After getting her masters degree in the Texas A&M equine program, she hopes to become a head coach at the NCAA level. While in graduate school, Linne serves as the coach of the stock horse team, back where her Aggie career first started.

Linne's former head coach has all the faith in the world that the Arizona native can accomplish yet another dream goal.

"I thoroughly enjoyed having Paige on the team," McKay said. "She was an exemplary teammate and leader. It has also been exciting to see Paige enter into her professional career and the process of grad school. She has handled the challenges and new responsibilities with class and character. I know Paige will be an asset to the equine industry."

"After continuing to learn more about the sport and my experience with the stock horse team, I feel like coaching is my place to make an impact in the world and the best way for me to continue to pursue my passions and be a positive force in the lives of others," Linne added.
Linne believes that both her experience as an equestrian student-athlete and as an intern for the NCEA have more than prepared her for the future. Thanks to Linne jumping at the opportunities to challenge herself and learn more about the sport, that future appears very bright.

"I saw and experienced firsthand how participation as an equestrian student-athlete can empower and enlighten young women," Linne said. "Team members leave with an education that expands well beyond the classroom, having gained time management and leadership skills and being instilled with a sense of dedication and competitive drive in whatever field they pursue after graduation. I can say that the perspective I have about the sport is different after interning for the NCEA, and I think it lit my fire of passion even more for women's collegiate equestrian and the impact it can have in the lives of young women."

"Paige’s pathway to success is clear," Fiorentino added. "She has the potential to move into the collegiate coaching arena, and might even move to higher administrative levels. I am so grateful to Paige for her contributions this summer, and I can’t wait for her to join the coaching ranks."

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