NCEA – National Collegiate Equestrian Association

What is the NCEA?

In 1998, Equestrian was identified and adopted by the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) and the CWA (Committee on Women’s Athletics) as an emerging sport for women in Divisions I, II and III.

The National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) is a non-profit corporation created  to advance the sport of equestrian. It’s responsible for the development and administration of equestrian rules and guidelines. The sport is subject to same NCAA policies and procedures as all other college sports.

The NCEA is committed to providing the highest level of competition and college opportunities for female equestrian athletes, as well as embracing equity, diversity and promoting academic excellence.  Its vision is to be recognized as the global elite level of competition for female college equestrian student-athletes.


The NCEA allows five riders from each team to compete head-to-head.  Five horses are selected for each event. Each rider is paired with one of the horses from a random draw prior. The rider is able to observe the horse warm up.  She then receives 4 minutes to practice her mount before competing.  The same horse is also used by riders from opposing teams in the head-to-head competition.  Each rider receives a score with highest scoring rider earning one point for her respective team.

The level of difficulty is demonstrated by pattern accuracy and how the rider uses the horse to the best of her ability.

Hunt Seat Equitation Over Fences

Judges evaluate a rider’s position, plan to complete the course, consistency on course, smoothness of ride, flow from jump to jump, number of strides taken by the horse in a line. Scoring for this event is based on a perfect score of 100.

Hunt Seat Equitation on the Flat

Riders must perform a flat test on their horse in an arena measuring 40 x 20 meters. The test consists of 9 movements judged on accuracy, smoothness and overall rider positioning. Each movement is scored from 1-10. The 10th score judges the rider’s seat and position as well as the correctness and effectiveness of her aids. Scoring for this event is based on a perfect score of 100.

Western Horsemanship

This event evaluates the rider’s execution of a prescribed set of maneuvers.  It judges their precision and smoothness while sustaining a balanced, functional and correct body position.

The ideal horsemanship pattern consists of 7 to 9 maneuvers with extreme precision.  Rider and horse must work in complete unison while executing each maneuver with subtle aids and cues. Scoring for each sequence of maneuvers ranges from -1.5 to +1.5 with a base score starting at 70.

Western Reining

This class is based on set patterns with a precise scoring system. Within these patterns, horse and rider athletic abilities are tested with a series of maneuvers that include spins, stops, flying lead changes and circles with changes in size and speed. Riders must perform one of the set National Reining Horse Association (NHRA) competition patterns. Eight parts to a reining test are judged with each individual maneuver scored from -1.5 to +1.5 with a base score starting at 70.

Useful NCEA Links

NCEA Equitation Class National Standings

All-Encompassing NCAA Publications


Initial Eligibility

About the National Letter of Intent (NLI)

The NCAA manages the daily operations of the NLI program while the Collegiate Commissioners Association (CCA) provides governance oversight of the program. Started in 1964 with seven conferences and eight independent institutions, the program now includes 650 Division I and Division II participating institutions.

The NLI is a voluntary program with regard to both institutions and student-athletes. No prospective student-athlete or parent is required to sign the NLI and no institution is required to join the program.

The NLI is a binding agreement between a prospective student-athlete and an NLI member institution.

A prospective student-athlete agrees to attend the institution full-time for one academic year (two semesters or three quarters).
The institution agrees to provide athletics financial aid for one academic year (two semesters or three quarters).
The penalty for not fulfilling the NLI agreement: A student-athlete has to serve one year in residence (full-time, two semesters or three quarters) at the next NLI member institution and lose one season of competition in all sports.

An important provision of the NLI program is a recruiting prohibition applied after a prospective student-athlete signs the NLI. This prohibition requires member institutions to cease recruitment of a prospective student-athlete once an NLI is signed with another institution.

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