FARGO-- As the temperatures begin to drop, the horses at the NDSU equestrian program are starting to head inside. It’s just in time as the fall competition season is getting underway.

“Our competitive season actually started last weekend, our hunt seat team traveled to the University of Wisconsin-River falls and competed. Our first western competition is actually this weekend and they travel to the University of Minnesota-Crookston.,” said Tara Swanson, who is the Senior Lecturer for the Department of Animal Sciences at NDSU.

This equine program off 19th Street North in Fargo features several different events, including western discipline and hunt seat competition teams, along with a rodeo team, and even therapy programs with the horses.

“For students that are interested in equine science or interested in equestrian teams, it is fairly limited around here. So for most of our students, that’s a big drawing point to come to NDSU, they do have the opportunity to compete on an equestrian industry and remain active in the equine industry even though they are going to college in a location that may be very far from their hometowns,” said Swanson.

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“I think for a lot of students coming in, this is a way for them to find individuals that have common interests. It’s a way for them to be a part of a team so a lot of people like to be part of a team and this is actually a team sport. Whereas in the normal equine industry, it is more of an individual competition,” Swanson added.

One of the student athletes in the program is junior captain, Michaela Long. She’s been riding horses her whole life, even having world competition experience. With each contest at the collegiate level though, comes the challenge of riding a different horse.

“I came in freshman year really nervous and everything about riding new horses. I thought ‘oh my goodness, what am I supposed to do? I have ridden my horse for all of my life’. Now I appreciate it so much, it’s so fun to get on ones that you don’t know. You don’t have a clue how they go, but they perform wonderful,” said Long.

“She has competed at very high levels in the American Paint Horse Association, worlds, very accomplished equestrian. So she brings a lot of experience to our program, but also more importantly she’s a good team player and really keeps the morale and team spirit up on the equestrian team,” said Swanson.

Competitive equestrian is a club sport at NDSU, but each of the 43 student athletes have their own story.

“A lot of our individuals actually don’t have an equine background. So a lot of the individuals on the team come from a background that has never actually really interacted with horses. I actually have 12 majors that are represented on the western team. So you don’t have to be an animal science or equine science student to be on the equestrian team. I have nursing students, I’ve had pre-med students on the team, and pharmacy students. So it’s really a campus ride organization which is unique,” said Swanson.

“I think everyone comes in with their different level of experience, doesn’t matter if it’s world show or beginner. I find it fun, I really enjoy the NDSU team, I’ve made a lot of friends,” said Long.

For more information on the NDSU equestrian team, visit their website.