At around noon on July 13, members of the New Mexico State equestrian team began receiving calls from the athletics department that NMSU was going to discontinue the equestrian team, effective immediately, due to budget cuts.
The school's Chancellor was scheduled to go before the Board of Regents at 1:30 for a presentation. Meanwhile, the athletes from the New Mexico State equestrian team who were still on campus during summer break were piling into cars with Sue Padilla to go make an appearance at the meeting themselves.
"We stood before the regents with the girls with the cameras going and we said, 'you just can't do this,'" recalled Padilla. "'You just can't cancel this sport. These girls just can't get up and go somewhere else.'"
A couple of days later, it was announced that the Aggies would be allowed to compete for one final season in 2016-17 under sponsorship from the school. That was the first hurdle cleared by those involved with New Mexico State.
However, it wouldn't be the last.
Padilla is on the National Advisory Board (NAB) for the NCEA, and is a New Mexico State graduate who still lives in the area. In addition, she has a daughter, Hallie, who is a member of the Aggies' equestrian team. Padilla, along with New Mexico State riders and their families and friends, soon began a vigorous fundraising and awareness campaign to gather support and funds for New Mexico State to become a self-sustaining program.
Relatives and friends who were in the marketing field helped develop flyers and brochures, those that were skilled in videography developed a video to promote the cause, and a parent and her brother out in California who owned a printing shop printed everything that was needed.
"I think the amazing thing has been the support, not only from our local businesses, but the families that are across the United States," Padilla said. "New Mexico State equestrian is just really diverse. We've got members from Canada, California, all the way from Minnesota to New York, so we've got members from all throughout the United States, and they've all just stepped up to the plate."
Recently, the NAB announced that it would give the New Mexico State program a grant that would help it in its efforts to gain more fundraising support to make the Aggies self-sustaining. It was an important step that continues to show how the hard work is starting to pay off for everyone involved.
"There's a lot of people working very hard," New Mexico State head coach Robin Morris-Walters said. "We've got a lot of great support. Right now we feel very good about where we're headed. We put a really good video together (and) a great packet together to really promote the team to supporters and donors. I think it's definitely positive right now."
The NAB was created in March of 2015 to help elevate and advance equestrian to the most sustainable and strongest of all NCAA women's sports. Featuring liaisons from each NCEA program, the NAB works with the NCEA to focus on expanding support for women's equestrian to NCAA championship sport status.
The example with New Mexico State shows how important it is for the NCEA to have an organization filled with people all across the country who work hard to promote equestrian, while also jumping in to help programs when needed.
"The goal is to continue to grow the sport and the number of teams that are participating, so it's important that we all support each other and every team," Padilla said. "We're here to grow this sport, and we need to continue to do that and support these teams however we can. That means each of us supporting each other."
That's why it doesn't matter that Padilla's daughter is on the New Mexico State team. She and the other members of the NAB aren't going to stop fighting for the schools and the sport of equestrian.
"I'm not leaving," Padilla said. "I live in this town. I'm an alumni of New Mexico State University and I'm here to support that team, whether my daughter is on it or not."
To contribute to the New Mexico State program, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 575-640-6960.