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Prospective Riders

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Prospective Riders

Thank you for your interest in the Stanford Equestrian Team! To aid you in your research, here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions we field from prospective riders: 

How do tryouts work?

The equestrian team holds walk-on tryouts at the beginning of the school year. Coaches factor in what level of riders the team needs, and includes overall equitation, horsemanship, teachability and commitment to riding. 

Can I join the team even without much riding experience?

Riders of any level may try out for the equestrian team. In the Intercollegaite Horse Shows Association, our team must have riders of all levels. Because points earned in the Walk/Trot, Walk/Jog, and Introductory divisions (these are the lowest levels in English, western, and dressage, respectively) mean as much as points won in the highest level of competition, we are invested in finding riders who come from a wide range of riding experiences.

Who is eligible to join the team?

As the IHSA has phased out the Alumni division, only undergraduates may try out for our Hunt Seat and Western teams. Undergraduates and full time graduate students with experience in Dressage may tryout for our Dressage team. We accept riders of all genders as IHSA and IDA competition is coed.

Does the Stanford Equestrian Team recruit?

Stanford Equestrian is a club sport at this time. As such, we cannot recruit riders through the NCAA Clearinghouse. That being said, if you are a strong student with a riding and showing background, we are welcome to contact us. Not only can we put you in touch with any coaches, captains, or officers who can answer your questions, but we also appreciate knowing when strong candidates are applying.

Will an extensive show background help me get into Stanford and onto the team?

It depends. Stanford admissions are increasingly competitive and, as the team does not recruit, we have little if any say over which prospective riders are admitted. Academics, other extracurricular involvement, community service, personal background, and overall well-roundedness all figure into a strong Stanford application; for more information on these factors, please consult the Stanford admissions website. However, we are always enthusiastic to see strong riders who have been admitted into Stanford try out for the team.

What can I do to build the skills to make me successful in collegiate riding?

Learn the basics of horsemanship, build a solid foundation in your chosen discipline, and ride as many different horses as possible! The collegiate competition format is based on “catch riding” unfamiliar horses, so becoming comfortable with a range of mounts will be very helpful in any collegiate riding pursuits.

What is the time commitment of being on the team?

The time commitment to the team includes riding two to five times per week, attending team meetings, completing three hours of cross-training per week, hosting home horse shows and other events, participating in community service, and traveling to away shows. Many members also do one to three hours of barn work per week to maintain our horses and facility and reduce their horse use fees.

Why does it cost money to be on the team?

Equestrian is a club sport at Stanford, which means that the team is student-funded. Team members work with The Stanford Fund every quarter to raise money for the team. These are all ways to keep our team dues as low as possible, but it still costs money to travel to shows, care for the horses, and pay our coaches. We are need blind and riders on financial aid may apply for assistance with some/all fees.

Do I need my own equipment, or does the team provide it?

All team members ride in breeches and riding boots for English and jeans and boots for Western, (clothes can be loaned from the team’s lending library of apparel). The Hunt Seat team has wonderful supporters like Heritage Gloves, Ariat, Kastel Denmark who help provide uniform items. The team also has a large collection of show clothes that team members may borrow. Each horse is fitted to its own tack and use of private saddles is not permitted.

How many horses does the team own?

The team owns between 30-35 horses. All have been generously donated or loaned to the team.

I have my own horse. Can I ride it in team lessons?

Yes. But riders with their own horses are still expected to take lessons on the team’s horses because learning to “catch ride” ride horses other than your own is part of the challenge of IHSA.

Since riding is not a varsity sport, what organization oversees the competitions?

The Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) is the governing body for Hunt Seat and Western equestrian competition, while the Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA) regulates dressage competition.

What schools does the team compete against?

Stanford competes in Zone 8, Region 1 of the IHSA. Other schools in our region are Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, College of the Sequoias, Santa Clara University, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, Sonoma State, Reedley College, and the University of Nevada at Reno.

Do you ride your own team’s horses in competitions?

Only when a competition is hosted by your school. The host school typically provides the horses, often borrowing some from within their local community. In accordance with IHSA rules, riders draw horses at random and are not allowed any time to warm up before entering the ring. This is intended to make it a level playing field for all riders, as they will all be mounted on unfamiliar horses. Judging is primarily based on the rider’s abilities to work with the horse they have drawn, as it is understood that not all the horses are the same nor have the same training.

What is the structure of intercollegiate horse shows?

This is a very cursory primer on the often confusing world of intercollegiate showing. For full details, visit the IHSA’s website at All riders are placed in a division corresponding to their skill level, from Walk/Trot to Open, based on the IHSA rules. Throughout the regular season, riders compete in their division and earn points for finishing first through sixth place. The coaches use their discretion to determine how often riders show: they consider strategically when they want their riders to “point out” of their division into the next one. Points are also part of the process used to determine who will advance to the postseason.