Special to the Register
Gainesville Daily Register
With the horse industry having such a rich history in North Texas, it is only fitting that North Central Texas College has developed one of the top equestrian programs in the nation.
The equestrian team at NCTC has already had a busy fall, competing at shows in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma where the team was named Grand Champion at the IHSA Western Competition held in El Reno.
The program was re-started in 2003 by Shelly Switzer deBarbanson. She coached the team from 2003 to 2009 before leaving the school to go to work for the American Paint Horse Association. Current coach Bill Kaven took over in 2009 and has continued to improve the program.
It was deBarbanson who pushed NCTC to be a competing school in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA). Now the program has 25 riders on their IHSA roster and 18 on their stock horse team roster. And those riders come from all around the world.
This year’s team includes students from Venezuela and Australia, along with others from Illinois, Colorado, Kentucky and Kansas.
“The thing is we are in the most ideal location to recruit riders from all over the world,” Kaven said. “We are in Gainesville, Texas which is a central location for the horse industry. We are directly between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, which is where most of the major horse events happen in those two cities. You have a huge horse population here as far as farms and ranches. So these kids are getting student visas, they get to come work with some of the top professionals in the industry and they get to come to school. So it works for everybody.”
Just like any other team, Kaven and his colleagues are always on the lookout for future members. Word-of-mouth is their best recruiting tool, but they also spend a lot of time at the bigger horse shows to meet potential students.
“Curt Donley, our assistant coach, is one of our big recruiting forces,” Kaven said. “He goes out to these events and talks to the kids and gets them interested and tells them how much fun it is and he has brought in a bunch of riders. Becky Terrell does a lot of judging over the summers. So when she sees a kid that looks college-ready, she will go up and talk to them. In fact, she is the one that recruited Lisa Roberts who went to Nationals last year.
“Now there are kids that have come because Lisa is here that knew her,” he added. “It’s that whole thing of, you get some in, then they tell their friends. I think that’s where a lot of the growth has come from.”
The growth has led to success as well. The Western team recently competed at the IHSA Western Show at West Texas A&M University in Canyon. The event included two shows and NCTC placed second in both, beating out bigger schools like Texas Tech University and the University of Oklahoma.
The English team competed at the IHSA English Show at Tulane University in New Orleans, La. In the first show, they placed third behind LSU and Texas Tech. In their second show, they were fourth behind LSU, West Texas A&M and Texas Tech.
For Kaven and his coaches, competing against four-year schools is a challenge, but one the coaches and students relish.
“It does sometimes put us at a disadvantage because I’ve only got two years to develop riders with this program, while the other schools have four years,” he said. “However, it’s one of those things where however much you put into it as how much you get out of it. We’ve been very fortunate to get a lot of dedicated, talented riders who have put a lot of hard work in and are every bit as competitive as the four-year schools.”
The NCTC stock horse team hosted an event in Decatur this past weekend and entered two teams. The NCTC white team placed second and the blue team placed third. Texas A&M took first place overall. In addition, student Sarah Kate Grider won Reserve Champion All-Around Non-Pro. For more information on the NCTC Equestrian team, contact Kaven at (940) 668-7731 Ext. 4318 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.