NCEA Format Levels The Playing Field in Collegiate Riding



The format of the NCEA is one that allows collegiate equestrians to compete fairly and on a level playing field.

The National Collegiate Equestrian Association competitions have a rider from both competing teams draw the same horse, provided by the host school. They then take a turn giving it their best shot, and the athlete who rides the horse the best gets the higher score which wins their team a point. Prior to competing, riders are able to watch horses warm up before receiving their own 4 minute official warm up prior to competing. According to the NCEA, “the level of difficulty is demonstrated by the accuracy of the pattern and how the competitor uses the horse that she draws to the best of her ability.”

NCEA has four disciplines: equitation on the flat, equitation over fences, horsemanship, and reining. This allows schools to recruit a wide variety of student athletes, and for individuals to have the opportunity to ride for a division 1 NCAA team.

For Hunt Seat Equitation Over Fences, riders are judged on their position, consistency on course, smoothness, flow from jump to jump, and the rider’s plan to complete the course. The score reflects most like a typical hunter/jumper show, it is out of a perfect score of 100.

TPH intern Grace Salmon riding for the University of Tennessee at Martin’s NCAA Equestrian Team. Photo Credit Randi LaChance

In Hunt Seat Equitation on the Flat, riders must ride a flat test, similar to a dressage test, in a 40 x 20 meter arena. The test consists of nine movements which are judged on accuracy, smoothness and overall position of the rider. Each movement receives a score from 1-10. The 10th and final score judges the overall position and seat of the rider and the correctness and effectiveness of their aids. The scores from each maneuver is added up and again is out of a perfect score of 100.

With Western Horsemanship, the event evaluates the rider’s ability to execute a set of maneuvers with precision and smoothness while maintaining a balanced, functional and fundamentally correct body position. A typical pattern consists of seven to nine maneuvers and is very exact, with the rider and horse in complete unison, executing each maneuver with subtle aids and cues. Riders are scored anywhere from -1.5 to +1.5 for each maneuver with their score starting at 70.

For Western Reining patterns, both horse and rider are tested on their athletic abilities with a series of maneuvers including spins, stops, flying lead changes and circles with varying sizes and speeds. There are a total of eight parts to a reining test with each individual maneuver scoring from -1.5 to +1.5, again with a score starting at 70.

The UTM equestrian team watching the unofficial warm ups. Photo credit Randi LaChance

One of the most appealing things about the NCEA format is that individuals are able to compete against others in a unique format that doesn’t happen on the regular show circuit. There is no opportunity to being simply beat by the horse your opponent has.