After a decade as a National Collegiate Equestrian Association sport, equestrian has become the 21st conference sport to join the Southeastern Conference. The inaugural season of SEC equestrian begins Saturday.
“We’re always looking to add great sports to our league,” SEC Assistant Commissioner for Championships Leslie Claybrook said. “It was a natural fit for (equestrian) to become our 21st sponsored conference sport.”
Claybrook said the league’s expansion made the addition of the sport to the conference possible.
“I think the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the league this year and Texas A&M having a quality equestrian program that was certainly part of the consideration and conversation that we had this spring with our athletic directors and administrators,” she said. “With them coming on board and now us sponsoring four teams it was a great opportunity for us to add a quality sport in which we had great success in our institutions.”
The four members of the SEC that currently sponsor equestrian are Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M. Auburn will host the inaugural SEC equestrian championship in March.
Auburn’s head coach Greg Williams said his team focuses on building the sport nationally, not just winning for Auburn.
“They’re very excited,” he said. “The girls I coach, they feel a responsibility for this sport across the country.”
Equestrian is a club sport at the University of Florida, and there is no immediate plan to make it a varsity sport.
Captain of the UF Hunt Seat team Lindsey Powers said most equestrian riders from Florida attend out-of-state universities because UF does not sponsor a team.
“Florida would have a huge competitive team if we ever adopted one,” she said.
Emily Miller edited this story online.