As students, when we come to Baylor we are expected to be offered a wide array of amenities and facilities to support not only our learning, but our passions as well as well. For the most part, we have to commend Baylor for providing some awesome things. But, they fall short in one small and often-overlooked category — horses.
While Baylor does have a fantastic equestrian team, there are no equestrian facilities for any other use than official equestrian team activities.
The university does not offer the use of any facilities to regular students and they do not even offer the official facilities for the athletes’ personal use.
That’s the way it is with every other sport, you might say. Floyd Casey Stadium is not available for touch football scrimmages.
That’s true, but the university does provide basketball courts to play on in lieu of the Ferrell Center, fields and lawns instead of Floyd Casey or the Betty Lou Mays Soccer Field, tennis courts instead of the Hurd Tennis Center. But nothing for riding enthusiasts.
In the past few years, the equestrian center has been completely refurbished after being destroyed by a tornado. So far they have built new covered and open arenas, new paddocks, stalls, a tack room, a meeting room and are in the process of building a new facility fully equipped with meeting rooms, training and treatment room, a locker room and coach’s offices.
As much as we love the equestrian team — they do bring a certain amount of prestige to Baylor — what are average students really getting out of spending money on the equestrian program?
Granted, the facilities were paid for mostly through generous gifts by the Willis and Carlile families and the Lariat thanks them for their generosity and commitment to excellence in Baylor athletics.
It is also important to note here that the Lariat is absolutely 100 percent pro-equestrian team and believes that improvements to their facilities will help them continue competing on a Baylor- worthy level.
To the uninitiated, however, equestrian is hardly a spectator sport. Chalk it up to what you will but Americans as a whole just haven’t developed a culture of fandom around equestrian. Rodeo, yes, but not equestrian.
In that line of reasoning, the average student isn’t going to get as much out of improved equestrian facilities as they are from, say, the new football stadium.
Because Baylor does not offer boarding or riding facilities to students for personal use, students with horses are forced to keep them anywhere from 10 minutes to hours away. Many students keep their horses at the McLennan Community College Highlander Ranch about 20 minutes away. While Highlander is a great place and offers nice facilities, it is a pretty far drive for those poor college students that can’t afford gas or simply don’t have an extra 40 minutes to waste on driving. Also, the MCC ranch is occupied primarily by MCC students.
We have also been told of a few people who drive all the way to College Station to practice and show because Baylor does not offer the facilities they need or want to use. Do we really want to be sending our good ol’ Bears down to the crazy land of the Aggies?
If, however, Baylor were able to work out a deal where interested students could rent space on or near campus at facilities comparable to those already in use it would not only put money in Baylor’s pocket but it would help foster a more riding-friendly culture on campus and allow more students to benefit.
This, coupled with increased participation of riding students — both on and off the official athletic team — in university activities could foster a more appreciative atmosphere on campus for the equestrian program.
Coming to college is not just about getting an education; it is about developing yourself as a person and finding things that you love to do.
Together we can work out a plan that will accommodate riding enthusiasts just like Baylor has chosen to accommodate students that rock climb, sail, swim and kayak.