Guide to Equestrian Colleges + Scholarships | Brandlink Media Skip to content

Guide to Equestrian Colleges (and how to secure a scholarship or spot on the team)

Equestrian Colleges

Photo by Louise Pilgaard on Unsplash

As an equestrian athlete, you have likely dedicated countless hours of training and practice to hone your skills and pursue your passion. While your talent and hard work are undoubtedly essential components of securing an equestrian college scholarship, having a complete understanding of some of the requirements to ride at the collegiate level is important. In addition, a professional website can be a very valuable asset that sets you apart from other applicants.

D1 Equestrian Colleges

There are currently 24 Division 1 (D1) equestrian programs in the United States. Here are the top D1 equestrian colleges according to the National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) rankings as of September 2021:

  1. Auburn University
  2. Texas A&M University
  3. University of Georgia
  4. Oklahoma State University
  5. University of South Carolina
  6. University of Alabama
  7. Baylor University
  8. Fresno State University
  9. Southern Methodist University
  10. University of Tennessee

It’s important to note that while these programs may be considered the top D1 equestrian colleges, there are many other excellent programs throughout the country. Each program has its own unique strengths and opportunities, and it’s important for prospective student athletes to research and consider a variety of programs to find the best fit for their academic and equestrian goals.

Requirements of College Equestrian Programs

College equestrian programs typically have specific requirements and expectations that potential student athletes need to meet in order to be considered for admission and scholarship opportunities. While the exact requirements may vary depending on the program and the level of competition, here are some of the common expectations for college equestrian programs:

  1. Riding ability: College equestrian programs typically require a minimum level of riding ability and experience from potential student athletes. The specific riding requirements may vary depending on the program and the level of competition, but many programs require riders to have experience in competitive riding and achievements at regional and national horse shows.
  2. Academic performance: While riding ability is important, many college equestrian programs also place a strong emphasis on academic performance. Most programs require a minimum GPA and standardized test scores, such as the SAT or ACT, for admission and scholarship consideration.
  3. Physical fitness: Equestrian sports can be physically demanding, and college equestrian programs typically expect student athletes to be in good physical condition. Potential riders may be required to undergo a physical examination to ensure that they are fit enough to participate in the sport.
  4. Horsemanship skills: Coaches also value riders who have strong horsemanship skills and are knowledgeable about horse care and management. They may look for riders who have experience working with and caring for horses outside of competition.
  5. Teamwork and sportsmanship: Equestrian sports are often team-oriented, and college equestrian programs typically value teamwork and sportsmanship. Coaches are looking for riders who have strong character and a positive attitude. They may look for riders who demonstrate good sportsmanship, are respectful to others, and have a strong sense of responsibility and integrity.
  6. Dedication and commitment: College equestrian programs require a significant amount of dedication and commitment from student athletes. Riders are typically expected to attend regular training sessions and compete in a number of competitions throughout the season.

It’s important for potential student athletes to research the specific requirements and expectations of the college equestrian programs they are interested in, as the requirements can vary significantly between programs. By understanding the expectations of college equestrian programs, riders can prepare themselves to meet these requirements and increase their chances of being admitted to their desired program.

Most Important Horse Shows for Aspiring College Equestrian Riders

  1. Rated shows: Rated shows are sanctioned by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and typically offer higher levels of competition than local or schooling shows. College coaches may look for riders who have competed and placed well in rated shows, especially those at the national level, as these shows tend to attract the most competitive riders.
  2. Regional shows: Regional shows may also be important for college coaches, as they provide a way for riders to qualify for national competitions. Coaches may look for riders who have qualified for and competed in regional shows, as this demonstrates that they have the skills and experience to compete at a higher level.
  3. Medal finals: Medal finals are highly competitive events that showcase the best young riders in the sport. Coaches may look for riders who have competed in and placed well at medal finals, as this demonstrates that they have the ability to perform under pressure and against top-level competition. Learn more by visiting the official USHJA site and reviewing the requirements for Hunter Seat Medal Finals.
  4. Junior Hunter Championships: Junior Hunter Championships are prestigious competitions that showcase the best young hunter riders in the country. Coaches may look for riders who have qualified for and competed in these championships, as this demonstrates that they have the skills and experience to compete at the highest levels of the sport.
  5. Equitation classes: Equitation classes are judged on the rider’s position and effectiveness, rather than the horse’s performance. Coaches may look for riders who have achieved success in equitation classes, as this demonstrates that they have a strong foundation in riding skills and horsemanship. As for “Big Eq”, the pinnacle for many junior riders is ASPCA Maclay Finals held every year on the first Sunday in November. Riders must qualify for Regionals by participating in Maclay classes at USEF sanctioned horse shows throughout the qualifying year. The qualifying period ends August 31 each year.

It’s important to note that while these shows may be important for some coaches and programs, they are not the only criteria for success in equestrian sports. As mentioned, coaches may also value other accomplishments, such as horse ownership or leasing, dedication and work ethic, academic performance, teamwork, and sportsmanship. 

Riding Website for Aspiring College Equestrian Athletes

In today’s digital age, having an online presence is crucial for individuals in nearly every industry. As an aspiring college equestrian athlete, a professionally designed website can showcase your achievements, goals, riding videos and more to potential coaches and recruiters, giving them a more comprehensive understanding of who you are as a candidate.

Benefits of Having a Website as an Equestrian Athlete

  1. Professionalism: A well-designed website can give you a professional edge and convey to coaches and recruiters that you take your equestrian pursuits seriously. It also shows that you have a level of digital literacy that is essential in today’s world.
  2. Visibility: Having a website increases your visibility, making it easier for potential coaches and recruiters to find you. By including keywords related to your equestrian achievements and goals, your website can rank higher in search results, making it more likely for individuals to discover your talents.
  3. Showcase your accomplishments: A website allows you to showcase your achievements and highlights of your equestrian career. You can display photos and videos of your best rides and competitions, and highlight any awards or recognition you have received.
  4. Personalization: Your website can be a space for you to showcase your personality and individuality. You can include a bio, personal statement, and photos that convey your unique style and interests, giving coaches and recruiters a more comprehensive understanding of who you are as a person.
  5. Communication: A website can also serve as a platform for communication with coaches and recruiters. You can include your contact information, social media handles, and a contact form, making it easy for individuals to reach out to you with questions or interest in recruiting you.

When creating a website as an equestrian student athlete, it’s important to keep in mind the specific requirements and expectations of the college equestrian programs you are interested in. Some programs may value certain qualities or achievements over others, so it’s essential to do your research and tailor your website accordingly.

In conclusion, by demonstrating a well-rounded set of skills and accomplishments and competing at top levels, riders can increase their chances of being recruited by a college equestrian program. Having a website as an equestrian student athlete can be a valuable tool for securing a college scholarship. It allows you to showcase your achievements, personality, and goals to potential coaches and recruiters, giving them a full picture and understanding of who you are as a candidate. With a well-designed website, you can stand out from other applicants and increase your chances of securing the scholarship you deserve.

Brandlink Media specializes in helping junior equestrian riders elevate their online presence with a polished website that showcases their talent. Website pricing starts at $2500.

Let’s get to building your website!

Drop us a line at

[email protected] or call the office at 405.607.2092
to talk with us today (fun fact: a real, live human answers our phone).

We can’t wait to create something great for you. 

Share this post

Embracing Paid Social Media

Embracing Paid Social Media

According to Small Biz Trends, almost 90 percent of marketers say their social marketing efforts have increased exposure for their business, and 75 percent say

Read More »

Take a look at


We would love to keep

you in the know.