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Collegiates thrive on equine competition
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A growing number of students are finding that Mississippi State University is a great place to horse around -- seriously.
Forty students are members of the MSU Horseman's Association, and half of those members comprise the university's equestrian team.
"The club attracts lots of students from outside the Animal and Dairy Sciences Department; we have many students who major in business, education, engineering and other sciences," said Molly Nicodemus, assistant professor and advisor for the equestrian team and horse association. "As the size of our program has increased in the last couple of years, we have begun to compete against more experienced riders in larger programs."
MSU's equestrian team is only 2 years old, but the students have shown initiative and enthusiasm in competition. Originally, team members competed in western and English riding, reining and jumping over fences. Last year, students added a dressage component with hopes that their regent (or conference) will add dressage as a competitive class.
"MSU students are organizing a horse quiz for national competition this year," Nicodemus said. "Their enthusiasm to show our knowledge about horses is impressive. MSU has added several classes to support the horse program, and those classes also have many students who are from outside our department."
Nicodemus said opportunities to learn about and work with horses at the collegiate level attract many students to MSU. Additionally, the young program also benefits from its proximity to a College of Veterinary Medicine.
"Some of our best riders have been pre-veterinary students," she said.
Will Montgomery is a junior animal science/pre-vet student from Greenwood. He recently became MSU's first student to qualify for regional competition in the "novice over fences" category. Before coming to MSU, he worked as a professional groom for an internationally known horse judge in Florence, Ala.
"I wanted to do something with horses when I came to college. I knew I was going to major in animal science at MSU," Montgomery said. "I'd considered veterinary medicine, but now I'm thinking I might want to pursue a master's degree in something like animal physiology. Research that would benefit horses would be very interesting."
Montgomery attended the first MSU equestrian team meeting in the fall of 2000 and recently has been a part of the formation of MSU's Horseman's Association. The association is designed to promote sportsmanship, equestrian activities and pursuits while providing a safe environment. It attracts people with various backgrounds some with limited horse experience, who are interested in learning more about horses.
"The equestrian team and the MSU Horseman's Association allow me to interact with and learn from other horse enthusiasts. One extra benefit for me is the opportunity to compete on the college level, which is also less expensive than competing at other levels," he said.
Montgomery said he feels fortunate to have access to some of the best facilities in the region with the Mississippi Horse Park and AgriCenter, located on MSU's South Farm.
Nicodemus said the facility has helped attract attention to MSU's equine program and to Mississippi's horse industry.
"Potential students look forward to the opportunity to ride in classes at the horse park, and it gives our team an advantage when they take part in competition out there," Nicodemus said. "The quality of the facility has attracted many large competitions to this area, which is a win-win situation for our program; students see some great horses and riders, and in turn the MSU equine program is seen by those visiting the campus during the competition."
Contact: Dr. Molly Nicodemus, (662) 325-3515