Prospective Riders

We are excited that you are interested in riding for 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?
  • Can I join the team even without much riding experience?
  • Who is eligible to join the team?
  • Does the Stanford Equestrian Team recruit?
  • Will an extensive show background help me get into Stanford and onto the team?
  • What can I do to build the skills to make me successful in collegiate riding?
  • What is the time commitment of being on the team?
  • Why does it cost money to be on the team?
  • Do I need my own equipment, or does the team provide it?
  • How many horses does the team own?
  • I have my own horse. Can I ride it in team lessons?

How do tryouts work?

The equestrian team holds tryouts at the beginning of the school year. Acceptance to the team often depends on what level of riders we need, but factors we consider are overall equitation, horsemanship, teachability and commitment to riding. We also hold tryouts at the beginning of each quarter for students returning from abroad or who request to be considered for the team.

Can I join the team even without much riding experience?

Riders of any level may try out for the equestrian team. To win intercollegiate horse shows, our riders must earn points at all riding levels, from Walk/Trot to Open. 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?

While the majority of our team is comprised of undergraduates, we do have a handful of graduate students on the team. Only those graduate students who competed in the IHSA for their undergraduate institutions, or eligible IDA riders, are eligible to try out for the team. Both men and women may ride and compete for the team: equestrian is one of the few sports in which men and women compete against each other as equals!

Does the Stanford Equestrian Team recruit?

Stanford Equestrian has elected to stay 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. We do get some funding from the Club Sports office, the ASSU and Stanford Athletics. Team members are required to write letters for The Stanford Fundevery 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 feed and care for the horses and pay our coaches.

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

All team members own at least a pair of breeches and riding boots for English and jeans and boots for Western, or clothes can be loaned from the team’s lending library of apparel. The English team is sponsored by GPA Helmets and Heritage Gloves. Also, at the beginning of the year, all team members are able to work with sponsors Ariat and local tack store, Blue Horse, so that riders can buy show and schooling clothes. Thanks to sponsorship, the attire is usually available at discount rates. 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 currently owns 25-30 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 Show Association (IHSA) is the governing body for English and Western equestrian competition, while the Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA) regulates dressage competition.

Why do you compete in the IHSA instead of the NCAA?

While the sport of equestrian appeared as an NCAA emerging sport over ten years ago, the number of varsity teams has remained at 23, with only about a dozen actually competing in the NCAA and making for a very small playing field. (Some varsity equestrian programs, like Brown and Cornell, compete in the IHSA; being a ‘varsity’ team does not necessarily mean a team competes in the NCAA.) Some of this is due to the schools of Division III athletic programs protesting inclusion, in part because some of the Division I teams have budgets that exceed $500,000 a year, which would be unmatchable by a small school. In contrast, the IHSA is almost 30 years old and currently has almost 400 teams.

In addition, the NCAA emerging sport of equestrian is women only (unlike the IHSA), going against the heritage of the sport that prides itself on being one of the few sports where men and women can compete on an even field. Stanford always has strong men on the equestrian team, including some who have won national championships for the team. The NCAA has also imposed stringent rules about coaches, regarding both their number andwhich juniors they may train in their outside business, which would render several of our favorite coaches and clinicians unable to support the team. Lastly, while there are parts of the NCAA format which are heralded (such as the ability to warm-up a jumping horse), other aspects, such as the flat being run as a short-court equitation/dressage test, have not been a popular way of adapting flat equitation classes. That being said, we respect all of the schools who compete in the NCAA and do scrimmages against some of them during our season.

While varsity status comes with many perks like partial scholarships and access to increased academic and athletic services, varsity athletes are required to follow a strict set of rules sanctioned by the NCAA. This includes only allowing riders who have never won cash, prizes or money (in excess of their entry fee) to compete. This thereby excludes almost any juniors (even if they are considered “amateur” by the USEF) who have competed in the top classes of the sport including Grand Prix, hunter derbies and any other classes awarding cash, saddles or other prizes, unless they refused all prizes. In addition, the NCAA has stringent rules about practice time and number of competitions which, given the nature of our sport, would make it almost impossible for ‘A’ circuit show riders to train or compete for any outside events.

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, 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 a horse out of a hat 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 quality or 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 at determining 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 post-season.