The NCEA Road: Post Season

Kansas State University's Sam Etsell shares her post-season account from a National Collegiate Equestrian Association team.

By Sam Etsell
The American Quarter Horse Journal
April 9, 2013

Kansas State equestrian team rides in snow, photo courtesy of Sam Etsell

While most college students enjoyed spring break on a beach, the Kansas State women's equestrian team soaked in the snowy tundra of Manhattan, Kansas. (Photo courtesy of Sam Etsell)

Editor’s note: A longtime AQHA competitor, Sam Etsell is wrapping up her senior year as a team captain and reiner on the Kansas State University women’s equestrian team.

It’s the time of year when we are spending just as much time trying to get all the hair off of our team horses as we are riding. And that means one thing: post season.

As we’ve completed our regular season here at K-State, we are now moving into practicing every day, getting horses ready for the National Collegiate Equestrian Association National Championships and trying to figure out if Coach Casie Maxwell will bring every bridle and bit with us to Waco, Texas (home of the national championships). While most college students enjoyed spring break on a beach, those of us on the equestrian team soaked in the snowy tundra of Manhattan, Kansas.

To escape from the snow, we headed to Oklahoma State University for the Big XII Conference Championships on March 29-30. K-State entered the competition as the No. 3 seed and took on No. 2 Texas Christian University.

Spoiler alert: We beat TCU 10-5.

Let’s go back a few weeks, though. At some shows, we like to make a bet with Coach Maxwell if we win or sweep the competition. This has resulted in Coach wearing a neon pink “YOLO” hat at home competitions (that’s right, You Only Live Once). At the previous show, we made a bet that if we swept, meaning we won every point, in the western competitions, we would get brand-new brooms.

Since the aisle in our barn is slightly dirt-covered and we are constantly beating the brooms to get the dirt out of them; we really wanted to fulfill this bet. And fulfill we did. Our western squad swept TCU 8-0.

The next day, we took on No. 1-seed Oklahoma State University. Since we had rain the night before, the competition was moved inside and we did one event at a time.

As the competition progressed, we stayed neck-and-neck with OSU all day. We were tied coming into the last event, reining. And after the most nerve-racking day of my life, we became Big XII reserve champions. It literally came down to the final ride, but OSU beat us 8-6.

With the Big XII behind us, we are headed to our final competition, the NCEA National Championships April 18-20 in Waco. K-State enters the competition as the No. 8 seed in hunter seat and No. 2 in western.

Since the top four seeds get a bye round in the first round, I had the pleasure of ripping my Round 1 pattern to tiny pieces for the first time in my collegiate career.

The NCEA National Championships feature four rounds of competition between the top 12 NCEA schools in western and hunter seat. The majority of the schools bring horses, so the riders have a larger pool of equine athletes to draw from. This is exciting and a great equalizer in post-season competition.

At the end of the weekend, a western and hunter seat national champion team will be named, as well as an overall nation champion.

Until then, here at K-State, we will ride just about every day. We’ve got a few things to tweak so we can bring home that coveted trophy. We just might have to leave a few of Coach’s bits behind so we can fit that trophy in the trailer for the ride home.

Did you read Sam’s first blog, The NCEA Road? In that first blog, Sam shares how AQHA competition and leadership opportunities prepared her for four years on a collegiate equestrian team.