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MSU Mounts Up Equestrian Team
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A new equestrian team at Mississippi State University offers collegiate riders of all skill levels the opportunity to improve their abilities and compete against other colleges across the region.
Molly Nicodemus, team advisor and assistant professor of animal and dairy sciences, said MSU and Wood College in Mathiston have the only equestrian teams in the state and both are in their first year. Currently, no scholarships are available at MSU, but fund-raising activities will minimize competition costs.
"Competitors are judged solely on their performance, not the horse's. Horse ownership is not necessary since the students ride horses provided by the school hosting the competition," Nicodemus said. "Riders can be beginners, intermediate or advanced, and they compete against others of similar skill levels. They accumulate individual and team points throughout the year to qualify for advanced competitions."
The team advisor said the number of equestrian teams around the country is increasing as interest in horses grows. MSU has 18 students, primarily female, preparing for their first competition in February at Middle Tennessee State University.
"Riders learn to be very flexible because they never know what type of horse they are going to get. They may get an unfinished (less trained) horse, but all horses are considered safe. Safety is more important than show quality," Nicodemus said. "The host college's students have a slight advantage because they may be more familiar with the horses. But riders are familiarized with the horses they are assigned and informed of the horse's cues and quirks."
Team members compete in western and English riding, reining and jumping over fences. Students can get involved with the team without competing.
"Some students may enjoy being around horses but not feel ready for competition. They can still contribute to the team's success," Nicodemus said. "Those who compete as undergraduates can continue on the team after they graduate as alumni as long as they want to compete."
Nicodemus received her bachelor's degree on an equestrian team scholarship at Southwest Missouri State University. She continued her involvement with horses while working on her master's at Sam Houston State University in Texas and her doctorate at Michigan State University, where she coached their team.
"We're finding more and more students pursuing careers in the horse industry," she said. "Mississippi has a tremendous horse community, and MSU is responding to the needs by expanding its curriculum and providing opportunities such as the new equestrian team."
Contact: Dr. Molly Nicodemus, (662) 325-3515