For the fifth straight year, the TCU equestrian team was invited to compete at the 2011 Varsity Equestrian National Championships in Waco.
Both the Western and Hunt Seat teams will participate in the competition beginning Thursday. Last season, the Frogs finished fourth, setting a school record of the highest finish in program history.
The sixth-seeded Western team will begin tournament play versus No. 11 Fresno State at the Heart O’ Texas Fair Complex. The Frogs finished fifth overall at the 2010 National Championships.
“We have worked really hard this year, mentally and physically, preparing for the Varsity Equestrian National Championships, and I believe this will be the year that all our hard work will pay off,” senior All-American Ashley Aikman said.
In 2008, the Frogs won the Varsity Equestrian Western National Championship in just the team’s second year of competition.
In its third straight appearance, TCU’s Hunt Seat team enters the tournament as the No. 9 seed. The Frogs will face No. 8 Kansas State in the opening round. A win for the Horned Frogs would mark only the second victory in their history over the Wildcats.
This year’s equestrian team boasts the program’s first-ever All-American recipients. Junior Courtney Chown was named an All-American in Horsemanship, while sophomore Callie Selchau and Ashley Aikman received honorable mention All-America honors.
The team also will have the benefit of getting coaching from a former equestrian national champion: assistant coach Kindel Huffman.
“We just arrived in Waco and feel very motivated, excited and pumped up,” Huffman said. “This is what we have worked for all year long. We are ready to beat any competitor that comes our way.”
Huffman and her sister Kelsey, another equestrian national champion, have provided a championship foundation for the program.
“The one thing that I’ve always said about Kindel Huffman is that she is a winner, and she wants to win, and she knows how to win,” head coach Gary Reynolds said. “She’s done it. That’s something that you can’t teach or buy or sell. That was one of the most important things for me in a coach, and when I had to hire a new assistant coach, I wanted a winner. She’s definitely brought a lot to this Hunt Seat team and put so much of herself in to them.”
In terms of leadership on the team, Kelsey Huffman has provided as much help as asked from the younger girls on the squad.
“It is an incredible feeling to be on a team where I know that every single girl has worked so hard and knows they are ready to take on anyone,” Kelsey Huffman said.
Kelsey Huffman’s said her advice to her teammates was to remember the only thing they can do is get ready to ride because they can’t count on the horse being prepared.
Reynolds said, “It’s always huge, that senior leadership that Kelsey provides, that experience she’s had at large horse shows. Her having been to her third national championship now, the younger girls on the team just look to her so much for advice and experience.”
With three All-Americans, a pair of sisters with national championships under their belts and quality wins on the season against top 5 ranked Oklahoma State and Auburn, Reynolds said the team was ready to compete.
“This is the hardest working team I have ever seen,” Reynolds said. “I am so proud of this team — they are ready.”
2011 Varsity Equestrian National Championships
When: All day Thursday through Saturday
Where: Heart O’ Texas Fair Complex, Waco
Follow the action with live results at gofrogs.com.
Sports editor Ryne Sulier contributed to this article.