West Fargo Sheyenne's Piper Anderson commits to Oklahoma State for equestrian
Anderson, a junior at Sheyenne, will join the defending National Collegiate Equestrian Association national champions in 2024.
WEST FARGO — Attending a school where the mascot is a Mustang, it was only fitting for Piper Anderson to make equestrian her passion.
Of course, Anderson fell in love with the sport long before she was in high school — 4 years old to be exact — and now the West Fargo Sheyenne junior will soon be competing among the best of the best at the collegiate level.
Last week, Anderson announced that she will continue her academic and athletic careers at Oklahoma State University. The Cowgirls compete at the Division I level and are the defending National Collegiate Equestrian Association national champions.
Anderson said she knew she wanted to compete at the college level after attending some camps at various schools and getting into contact with coaches. After making an official visit to OSU — located in Stillwater, Okla. — she immediately felt at home.
"It just felt right," Anderson said. "I loved the coaches, I loved the atmosphere, the girls on the team — with the college horses, they're all donated and in the past, I donated one of my horses to Oklahoma State. So I kind of knew a little bit about the program and sometimes I think having known so much about it for so long, it felt even more right — like the right place for me."
Anderson competes in American Quarter Horse Association All-Arounds, which is a mix of Western and English disciplines and combines overall horsemanship skills such as basic riding skills, dressage and more.
"It's a lot about presentation and your ability to control and perform on the horse," Anderson said.
She picked up the sport at age 4 before beginning to ride competitively at about 7 years old.
"My mom rode horses as a kid on the East Coast and showed interest in horses, so she kind of got us into it on a small scale," Anderson said. "I started showing when I was 5 (years old) and then when I was about 7 or 8, I started doing the more wide-scale, competitive horseback riding."
It was after her freshman year of high school that Anderson truly wanted to commit to equestrian athletically.
"I play volleyball right now — just kind of like travel volleyball for fun," Anderson said. "I don't do school volleyball anymore. After freshman year volleyball, I kind of realized that I wanted to put all of my time and effort into the horses, so volleyball is kind of just a hobby now. It's still enjoyable but less competitive at this point."
Piper's mom, Amy Anderson, was also a horse enthusiast growing up. That's why she's proud to witness her daughter carrying on the family tradition and turning it into a passion of her own.
"I'm so proud of her," Amy said. "It's one of those things you hear about a little bit in the horse world when you start. And then as you get older, you see kids you know that she's competed against and going to these schools to ride. You start to wonder if that's a possibility and when (Piper) decided she wanted to do it, we investigated a little bit more and here we are.
"A lot of people think of horses as just a hobby, but of course we went into it full force and it's really bringing a lot back to us now. Most Division I sports are football, volleyball, basketball and that sort of thing, and so there's not a lot of schools that have equestrian teams. It's the Big 12 schools and SEC schools mostly. And it's great to get the opportunity to be a student-athlete at a school like (OSU) with the sport that she loves."
Anderson is guided by trainer Brett Clark, who operates a stable on his farm in Christine, N.D. just south of the Fargo metro area. She competes in roughly eight to 10 events year annually, including premier events such as the Youth World Show, the National Snaffle Bit Association World Show and the All American Quarter Horse Congress. She's a two-time Congress winner with three reserve finishes, along with many more top fives and top 10s. She finished sixth place at the NSBA World Show this past year.
Anderson said she also received a Division I offer from Auburn University, but it was OSU that stuck out to her the most in every aspect.
"I loved the campus," Anderson said. "It felt like a huge college. These big, red brick buildings that felt classical but big. Yet, it's not like a Texas A&M or Alabama size. It's a little smaller so it's a little more like a community (feel). The class sizes are smaller and the team, they felt so connected. The night I was there, I got to meet a lot of the team. Everyone showed up on both the Western and English (disciplines) side. Everyone was communicating and friendly with each other.
"The campus and the barn were so close to each other. They ride four to five times per week and here at home, I ride four to five times a week. So just the similarity between home and school, it felt like it would be an easy transition."
Oklahoma State's equestrian program started in 1999 and competes in the Big 12 conference. The Cowgirls, guided by longtime head coach Larry Sanchez, have won eight conference championships and seven NCEA national championships, with 2022 being the program's first national title in the overall horsemanship discipline.
OSU went 15-2 during the 2021-22 championship campaign, breaking a program record for single-season wins. The top-ranked Cowgirls defeated No. 3-ranked Texas A&M in the national championship event by a score of 11-9.
Once Anderson arrives on the OSU campus after her senior year at Sheyenne in 2024, she plans to major in engineering while earning a minor in business. She said there is pressure joining a successful program but that pressure is primarily due to adjusting to collegiate horses she's not as familiar with.
"Yeah, definitely," she said. "Especially the challenge of the horses not as nice and not as well-trained as the horses I've been lucky to show in the past. So it's the transition between riding those more difficult horses and being able to be successful on those going in while also balancing school. But (OSU) offers so much to help that I think it'll be an easy transition once I get into it and get a routine going."