Collegiate Stock and Ranch Horse Teams: What to Know

Collegiate Stock and Ranch Horse Teams: What to Know

Collegiate stock horse teams are offered at four-year and two-year colleges. Students compete on their own, school-owned or leased horses in ranch horse competition. 

Gatlin Duncan sidepasses a log for ranch trail (Credit: Larri Jo Starkey/Journal)

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College is where young people gain valuable skills to mold them into successful adults, and more college students are adding ranch horse competitions to their college coursework. 

Drawn together by a common interest in showing a versatile stock horse, college students across the country form lifelong friendships and hone their horsemanship skills on collegiate stock horse teams

What is a Collegiate Stock Horse Team?

Collegiate stock horse teams are offered at four-year and two-year colleges across the country where students compete on their own, school-owned or leased horses in ranch horse competition

  • Some schools provide horses, but personal horses can be used. 

  • Team numbers range from less than 10 to up to 20. Most schools require prospective students to try out for the team.

  • Typically, some or all travel expenses are paid by the university. Some schools provide scholarships; most do fundraising of some kind. 

Most of the competitions are American Stock Horse Association or Stock Horse of Texas-sanctioned, so the four classes are: 

  • Pleasure.

  • Working cow horse.

  • Rening.

  • Ranch trail.

Different levels offered include: 

  • Novice.

  • Limited.

  • Non-pro (the only level in which exhibitors are required to go down the fence during working cow horse and, even then, the exhibitor can circle instead of roping).

Benefiting the School: Recruitment

It’s simple – more opportunities at a university lead to increased interest from potential students. 

Benefiting the Student

The opportunities provided for students competing on ranch horse teams are exponential. 

  • Incentive to go to college: Students with a ranch background or ranch-horse interest are provided an outlet to get involved with other students with similar experience. 

  • Improved horsemanship: Students with foundational horsemanship knowledge are challenged to polish their skills and show and win in front of a judge. This leads to better horsemanship and real application on the working ranches many of the students will find themselves on. 

  • Life-long lessons: From community involvement to team leadership, students are exposed to experiences that reach far beyond the barn. Many teams are required to speak with business owners in their community to raise money for their team. Leadership positions are also assigned to upperclassmen, requiring students to lead their fellow student-athletes and hone their decision-making skills.

Benefiting the Horse Market

  • Exposure for the sport: Many stock horse teams came about from a need that Intercollegiate Stock Horse Association teams weren’t quite meeting. Opportunities to compete at the collegiate level promotes further participation post-graduation and  growth of the sport across the board. 

  • Increased participation: It is surmised that about three-quarters of the students who graduate out of stock horse programs at universities go on to show at some level after college. 

  • Opportunity for seasoned horses: Although some students bring their own horses to college, it’s not necessary. Many universities provide horses for their students to compete on. These horses may be donated directly to the university, or owners offer their experienced (often retired) ranch competition horses to be leased per individual student.