Yay or neigh to Guilford equestrian team?

When you were looking at possible colleges, what do you look for? A strong program in your intended major? What about a specific sports team?

Five schools in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference have something Guilford doesn’t: equestrian.

The demand for an equestrian team, an expensive sport, is too little to prompt serious consideration.

“In my years at Guilford, I am unaware of any requests or interest in an equestrian team,” said Aaron Fetrow, vice president for student affairs in an email interview.

Guilford’s lack of an equestrian does not seem to be a deterrent to potential students.

“In my 17 years (of working at Guilford), I’ve fielded one or two questions from a perspective students regarding an equestrian program,” said Dave Walters, sports information director and assistant director of athletics.

Adding sports to the athletics program is not a foreign concept.

“In the past 10 to 12 years, the college has restored cross country, track and field and added indoor track. Softball was restored in 2003,” said Walters.

Certain factors must be taken into consideration when adding a sport to the college’s athletic program.

These include student interest, cost, opportunity to schedule competitions and facility issues.

“What is the value to the college?” asked Walters, as an example of a question that should be asked when examining the possibility of adding a new sport.

Budget concerns are especially pertinent right now.

“The sports information office has the lowest operating budget it has had in my seventeen years here,” said Walters. “This tightness of the budget suggests that money may be tight throughout campus.”

Walters said that if the school could add another sport, he would wish it to be women’s golf.

“We have a strong golf tradition at this school,” said Walters.

“Plans are in the works for a golf center on campus. It is in the fundraising stages.”

According to Walters, it would be ideal if the future golf center could benefit both women’s and men’s teams instead of just the men’s team.

Even when schools do have equestrian teams, they aren’t necessarily attractive to all riders.

“When you have a horse and are on a team, you usually have to let the horse be a part of the team’s horses too,” said Carolyn Van Houten, winner of the North Carolina State Equestrian Championship and junior at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, in an email interview.

“Which means that your very expensive, very sensitive horse is taught bad habits by other, less-advanced riders.”

Van Houten opted not to join her school’s equestrian team.

“I have a lot of friends who went to college to ride on an NCAA team often on scholarship, but that was never my dream,” said Van Houten. “Horse people tend to be a little like cat ladies — obsessed.”

For now, it seems that too few Guilford students and potential Guilford students have an obsessive love for those very expensive cats, and with no demonstrated interest the athletic administration’s focus is elsewhere.

It looks like Guilford will continue to say “neigh” to an equestrian team.