MC

Mississippi College

MC Adds Equestrian Program to Offerings

August 24, 2007

Central Mississippi is known as the home of the Capitol, a Nissan plant and the late internationally celebrated author Eudora Welty. It's not considered to be horse country, but Mississippi College's new equestrian program is beginning to change that perception.

MC's new love for horses, and a growing team of student riders gearing up for competition this fall with colleges in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Texas is the reason Meredith Guider transferred from a Virginia school. The intercollegiate competition begins in early October.

"I grew up doing 4-H and riding horses my whole life,'' said Guider, 20, an MC junior from Utica majoring in business administration.

There's really no secret to her success, first in the riding program at Virginia Intermont College and now the emerging women's team at MC. "You definitely have to practice,'' she said during a summer riding session with her horse, Kassaria, at Providence Hill Farm, home turf for the MC team.

Other newcomers to the MC squad include students like Camille Wood, 19, of Waynesboro, who competed in horse shows at the Mississippi State Fair in Jackson. MC sophomore Sara Mellado, 19, of Dallas, who started riding horses as a 4-year-old and did junior shows growing up, is back at it after running track at a Texas high school.

Longtime horse lovers with experience in regional horse shows join rookie riders on the new MC women's equestrian team led by coach Mandi Callaway Powers. who lives on the sprawling Providence Hill Farm with its more than 9,000 acres, a stable for three dozen horses, a lake ideal for fishing, and much more. People needing horse lessons, from youngsters on up, come from all over the huge farm near Clinton owned by Jamie and E.B. Martin.

MC supporters will find out soon how their initial equestrian season fares. The Choctaws open on the road with Sewanee Equestrian in Tennessee Oct. 6 and travel to Murray State in Kentucky, Maryville College in Tennessee for competition later in the month. Middle Tennessee State, West Texas A&M are among others on the schedule before the season closes with national competition in Los Angeles in early May.

While the Choctaws football, cross country soccer and volleyball teams are practicing on the Clinton football campus during this sizzling summer, members of MC's first equestrian team are quietly getting ready at the sprawling Providence Hill Farm. It's home to stables with housing for about three dozen horses.

When it comes to equestrian teams, and intercollegiate competitions, there's been "growing interest across the United states the last ten years,'' said Coach Powers, who came to MC after coaching the Rice University team in Houston. She rides and teaches at the farm six days a week and makes sure the MC students ride at least twice weekly.

The facts back up her claim - horses and equestrian programs are catching on at college campuses nationwide.

In 1998, equestrian was classified as an emerging sport by the NCAA. Today, there are 23 colleges and universities that offer equestrian as a varsity sport and more teams are being launched.

Horses are definitely a big business. The web site Varsity Equestrian, the site of NCAA Varsity Equestrian, reports the horse industry has more than a $112 billion economic impact annually, with more than seven million Americans involved. And that involvement has recently stepped up a few notches at Mississippi College.

To learn more about the equestrian program at Mississippi College, please call the athletic department at Mississippi College, 601-925-3341.

PHOTO BY JAY THOMAS: MC junior from Utica, Meridith Guider, is a participant in the new Equestrian program at Mississippi College. Guider, pictured riding Kassaria at Providence Hill Farm, receives instruction from coach Mandi Callaway Powers.