The Kansas State Equestrian Team started out as a club sport in 1999 with Teresa Slough as the sole coach. Although the team had just about 20 members that first year, the Wildcats won their first national title with Kelly Gratny earning the Reserve National Championship in Individual Western Horsemanship. Since becoming a varsity sport on campus in 2000, the team has since earned 9 national titles and sees around 120 girls try out for the team each year.
With the new requirements Title IX placed on schools to ensure equal opportunities for female athletes, K-State added Equestrian as their newest sport in 2000. The agricultural background of the school was a clear influence, as well as a strong interest from club members and other students on campus.
The team started out in a unique position competing in Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) competitions. This format required a team to show riders with all levels of experience, which allowed girls with little or no previous experience to compete as much as those with more knowledgeable backgrounds. Later, the team competed simultaneously in Varsity competitions where schools showed their best riders against each other. In 2006, however, the NCAA ruled that varsity schools could only compete in one national championship, which meant choosing between IHSA and Varsity. Due to the more competitive nature of the Varsity competitions, this is the format KSU currently competes in.
K-State Wins Reserve National Championship
WACO, Texas - The Kansas State equestrian Western squad wrapped up the 2009-10 season with its best finish in school history, falling just short of a National Championship in a 6-2 defeat at the hands of Texas A&M Saturday at the Varsity Equestrian National Championships.
K-State's Reserve National Championship performance marked the highest finish by any squad in program history at the VENC, topping the 2007-08 Western squad that finished third at the VENC. Saturday afternoon's National Championship matchup with top-seeded Texas A&M marked the first time in school history that a squad had ridden for a national title.
"Today was one of the most memorable days of my life, and it's all because of the group of girls I get to work with," said head coach Casie Lisabeth. "They rode outstanding all week and really managed to peak as a team at the right time."
The Western squad finishes its season with a 10-8 record overall. The No. 6 seeded Wildcats won three contests in the span of two days to find themselves in the championship match, defeating No. 11 Delaware State, No. 3 Oklahoma State and No. 10 South Carolina on the road to the final.
"I saw a new level of riding, teamwork, and support from this team and I am so proud of each and every one of them," said Lisabeth. "This group of riders is so talented and dedicated, I'm just honored that I get to be a part of their success. Congratulations to Texas A&M for a great run, they were a great team to play and their riders really put the pressure on us today."
The Aggies took control of the contest early, riding to a 4-0 sweep of the Horsemanship discipline despite several strong rides from the Wildcats. K-State would need to take all four points in the Reining discipline in order to force a tie-break.
Senior Tara Hallan picked up the first Wildcat point of the contest, riding past Texas A&M's Maggie Gratny, 141-139.5, to wrap up her K-State career with 27 total wins. Fellow senior Morgan Campbell picked up a second Wildcat point by defeating Randi Standly, 146-143, in her final ride. That was all the comeback the Wildcats could muster, however, as the contest ended in a 6-2 defeat to close out a remarkable season.
"Today was only icing on the cake for my time with this team," said Hallan. "I've never been a part of something with so much love and passion. To be a part of a Reserve National Championship team is one thing, but to have gained the memories and friendships is irreplaceable. This team is my family and it has literally been a great ride."