As the University's inaugural team, Baylor's equestrian program aims to set a standard of excellence on and off the horse. Head coach Ellen White approaches this year as being one of solid foundation building for a program she expects to grow quickly.
"We are such a young team, but I am excited. We have recruited some people that have certainly been winning as individuals. So if we can get them all together to be a team, we should have success," White explained. "We do have some women on the English side who have been out competing. We expect them to fit easily into the team and be strong."
Assistant coach Trista Armstrong commented on the Western riders saying, "We have strength from having two western riders who have been to competition before, so we do have some experience. I've seen some of these women show before so I know what to expect. These women are dedicated, too. They're not just here to be on a team; they're here to build the first team and set the standard."
The first-ever roster includes 25 athletes, each of whom shares in a portion of the program's five full scholarships. Two riders transferred in with experience from other colleges; Brenna Burris and Amanda Esco, who have been designated by White as 2005-06 co-captains based on their riding experience and knowledge. "We have our two team captains who are seniors. We are very pleased with the way they are bringing the team forth and leading them," said White.
Burris, a Western rider from Farson, Wyo., came to Baylor for her senior year after attending College of Southern Idaho and Fresno State, where she worked with Armstrong. Esco, a senior from Millsap, Texas, previously attended Vernon College and is a versatile rider, competing in both English and Western shows.
With a schedule packed with national and Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) champions, Baylor's equestrian program is wasting no time in building its reputation. "We are starting out with a very tough schedule. We are competing with the best of the best, no cream-puff competition," said White.
In order to mold a highly competitive and successful team, the athletes need to be exposed to the best riding competition. Facing Oklahoma State and Texas A&M will truly test Baylor's riding ability.
The fall consisted of one Big Eight show, two IHSA shows, and two head-to-head shows in which the Bears rode to prove themselves and set a standard for the program. During November's IHSA English show hosted by Texas A&M,White led her riders to the program's first-ever top place finish when it tied Oklahoma State with 37 points. The English team posted a 2-0 record in head-to-head competitions as it easily defeated South Dakota State, in the program's inaugural home show, and SMU.
The Western team also competed in the South Dakota State show, and its win in the discipline gave Baylor the overall victory.
The inaugural team has limited depth but an encouraging mix of talent and ambition. White is confident that after some solid recruiting this year, next year's results are going to startle spectators.
"Baylor's program will fast and furiously become a very competitive team. I think we can easily become the team to beat in the next two to three years," said White.