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Ole Miss starts an equestrian team

Last year, the University of Mississippi was the only college in the SEC without an official equestrian team. Thanks to some passionate students this fall, that’s changed.

The Ole Miss Equestrian Club is now on campus for the 2015-2016 school year and will soon register as a member of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association.

“My ultimate goal for this team is to get facilities built on the Ole Miss campus,” Colleen Stimola said. “We are really looking for in-kind donations to make this a reality. Based upon the interest in an equestrian team it is clearly something the campus needs. Ole Miss loves to rival the other SEC schools and this is just another way to do so.”

Stimola is a sophomore majoring in integrated marketing communications with a minor in business administrations and is from Connecticut.

“Because I have been in the horse world for so long I knew what it would take in order for us to be a competitive team,” Stimola said. “It took hours of paperwork and time to get everything up and rolling. I had to advertise that this club was beginning so I could attract members. The turnout is outstanding. Equestrian is clearly something that was needed on campus.”

The English team rides with Beanie Cone at Hunters Edge Stables in Memphis and the western side ride with Kevin McDavitt at McDavitt Stables. Stimola said both coaches let the students use “school” horses until the team can get horses of their own. These are horses typically owned by the stable or riding club for visitors or students ride.

Facilities needed on campus

Although Stimola and other team members are grateful, Stimola believes having facilities on campus is the best option to work toward in the long run.

“It would open many doors for this university,” she said. “The estimated cost for this project is $500,000 to $1 million. By having a barn with horses and paddocks on the Ole Miss campus, it would make riding for the team so much easier.”

The team currently has 34 active members and more want to join.

Stimola said members will participate in intercollegiate competitions that are intended for riders of all levels in the future. The team rides English and western style. 

In the IHSA shows, the team will be up against some of the toughest SEC college equestrian teams around.

“These competitions are completely different than a normal show,” Stimola said.

The horses’ names go into a hat, the hat is then switched with another team and the riders draw. There is not always time to practice or warm up and the rider mounts the horse and goes directly into the show ring.

“It is difficult and really tests the riders skills. You have to be able to get on any kind of horse and do well,” she said.

Stimola said the facilities also could open up opportunities for new classes and accredited programs as well as community service involvement.