Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES - Students and supporters broke ground June 25 for an Equestrian Educational Center at New Mexico State University that will provide needed space for equitation classes and facilities for the university's nationally known equestrian team.
The 3,885-square-foot center will house a classroom, tack room, locker rooms and offices for instructors and coaches. The new facility on Stewart Street at the southwest edge of campus will help NMSU build on its equestrian legacy, said Jerry Schickedanz, dean of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics.
"New Mexico State University's only national team titles have been won by the equestrian team and the women's rodeo team," Schickedanz said.
NMSU's equestrian team, which competes in the 300-member Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, won national titles in Western equitation in 1995 and 1998 and a reserve national championship in 1997.
NMSU riders, who wore their Western and English regalia for short demonstrations on horseback at the groundbreaking, were eager to have ready access to a classroom, saddling area, locker rooms and restrooms.
"Having those basic creature comforts will help the team concentrate, practice harder and be ready to compete," said Deborah Rosencrans, equestrian instructor and coach. "In the past, the sheer hard work and determination of these students is why they've done so well."
The lack of locker rooms and tack space has complicated logistics for NMSU's national invitational events on campus. Riders had to make do with trailers and portable restrooms.
"I'm excited to see this groundbreaking because I saw the plans for this center my freshman year," said Kristi Gottsponer, a senior from Las Cruces who competes in both Western and English events. The center is scheduled for completion in November, one month before Gottsponer earns her bachelor's degree in animal science.
The $652,500 center is being funded with $100,000 in severance tax money and $500,000 from a statewide educational bond issue. The remaining funding will come from private donations and college funds.
The facility will support competitive riders, equine science students and beginners taking riding classes to fulfill physical education requirements. NMSU offers a minor in horse management, with classes in introductory horse science, horse evaluation, horse production, fitting and selling, applied horsemanship, stable management and Western and English equitation.
"Lots of our riders aren't horse kids," Rosencrans said. "If not for the classes and team, they wouldn't have the opportunity to learn. The patience, responsibility for taking care of the horses and self-confidence that come from getting a large animal to do what you want are skills students can take with them to whatever they do in life."
Laura Smith, an exchange student from Pennsylvania who competes in English equitation, said she decided to stay at NMSU because of the equestrian team.
"In schools back East, you have to go through a private stable and pay gadzooks of money," she said. "Here, I can ride as much as I want, and it's really reasonable." Smith, who earned an English degree in May, will pursue a graduate degree in range science at NMSU.
To bring more students and events to campus, supporters are backing plans for the project's second phase - a 1,000-seat, totally enclosed arena where equestrian, livestock, 4-H and FFA events could be held.
"It's exciting to break ground for the educational center as the first phase of this project," said Barbara Wise, a development officer with the college. "The next step is raising funds for an enclosed arena." Those interested in the project can contact Wise at (505) 646-4136.
© 2013 New Mexico State University Board of Regents
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