New Jewels in the Collegiate Equestrian Crown

A more inclusive format offers seven national championships in women’s collegiate athletics.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

AQHA Professional Horsewoman Melissa Dukes coaches a team member at the 2018 National Collegiate Equestrian Association Finals in Waco, Texas. (Jill Dunkel photo)

AQHA Professional Horsewoman Melissa Dukes coaches a team member at the 2018 National Collegiate Equestrian Association National Championships in Waco, Texas. Josie Mootz takes her turn in the Horsemanship event competition. TCU advanced to the quarterfinals of the bracket with a 4-0 win over Delaware State. (Jill Dunkel photo)

The dirt was flying in the Extraco Event Center in Waco, Texas, for Day 1 of the National Collegiate Equestrian Association National Championships.

Reining kicked off the event April 18 with six schools competing in the first half of the event bracket. NCEA, the governing body of women’s collegiate athletics, broke new ground in 2018 by broadening the scope of the championship show.

At this year’s competition, seven national titles are up for grabs. Event championships – one in each discipline (reining, horsemanship, equitation on the flat and equitation over fences) as well as titles for overall western team and overall hunt seat team are based on the individual event bracket that includes up to 16 different schools.

In a separate team competition, the top eight seeds will compete for the overall national title.

The change in format opens the door for more schools to qualify for the national championship show. The event brackets allow teams that might not have riders in both disciplines the opportunity to compete.

NCEA Executive Director Leah Fiorentino said never in the history of the event has NCEA welcomed so many new schools. Three schools – West Texas A&M University, University of Minnesota Crookston and Sweet Briar College – are making their debut at nationals.

NCAA has taken note of the increased opportunities and the growth of women’s equestrian and is sending a representative to check out the national show. Just a few years ago, NCAA took equestrian off the emerging sports list, signaling the athletic association’s lack of support for the sport. However, that action spurred NCEA to seek ways to grow women’s equestrian, and new schools have been added the last two years.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in sponsorship this year, including support from a visiting NCAA representative at the event,” Dr. Fiorentino said.

On April 18, 15 schools competed in the event competition with the first round of bracket play in each discipline. The team competition was to begin April 19, followed by the quarterfinals and semifinals of the event bracket on Friday and then championship Saturday for both the team and event competitions. More information, including each bracket, live scoring and a live webcast, are available at