FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Sacred Heart University Interim Director of Athletics Judy Ann Riccio announced today that the equestrian team will be competing in the NCEA (National Collegiate Equestrian Association) format beginning in the 2021-2022 season.
The team will continue to compete in the IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association) format in addition to the NCEA. Head coach Tiffany Hajdasz stated “we are excited about the growth of our sport at Sacred Heart University. The addition of meets in the NCEA format will enhance the competitive opportunities for our student-athletes.”
The Pioneers will be one of 19 teams competing in this format which includes programs at the NCAA DI, DII, and DIII levels. The program is currently one of seven NCAA DI teams participating in the IHSA format and will be one of four teams in the country to participate in both the IHSA and NCEA. The team will be affiliated with the ECAC Equestrian conference made up of 11 teams: Bridgewater College, Delaware State University, Minnesota-Crookston, South Dakota State, Southern Methodist University, SUNY New Paltz, Sweet Briar College, UC Davis, University of Lynchburg, and the University of Tennessee Martin. The Pioneers are scheduled to compete in the NCEA at Delaware State and Sweet Briar this fall.
NCEA competitions are a head-to-head format, and schools may choose to compete as a single or dual discipline team (Jumping Seat and Western). Each discipline has two events, Jumping Seat Fences, and Flat, Western Horsemanship, and Reining. The Pioneers will compete as a single-discipline team in the Jumping Seat events. Teams can play five riders per event, with horses assigned by random draw at the start of the competition. Riders from opposing teams compete on the same horse, and whichever rider receives the higher score earns one point for her team. The level of difficulty is demonstrated by the accuracy of the pattern and how the competitor uses the horse to the best of her ability.