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The OSU Ranch Horse Team finished as the fifth overall Division II team at the Collegiate Ranch and Stock Horse National Championship in April 2022. Team members included (from left) JT Danielecki, outstanding freshman and scholarship recipient, Kathryn Moore, Sierra Walter, Vivienne Sander and Amy D’Epagnier, 6th overall novice rider. (Photo by Madelyn Owens)

Ride for the Ranch

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Media Contact: Jami Mattox | Agricultural Communications Services | 405-744-8061 |

In a state with 326,000 horses, Oklahoma State University and the Ferguson College of Agriculture are well known for their collegiate equestrian and rodeo teams.

Now, a new riding team is gearing up to start its competitive season.

The OSU Ranch Horse Team was established in 2020, and after more than a year of building a team and program, members are ready to hit the road competing, said Megan Newlon, agricultural communications and animal science junior.

When Newlon started her education, she noticed a missing opportunity at the university, she said.

Newlon grew up showing in the ranch horse discipline, and during her college search, she sought universities with established programs, she said.

Although OSU did not have the ranch horse riding team she wanted, she fell in love with the academic programs, she said. Once her freshman year started, she began the process of creating a club for the sport she loved, Newlon said.

“We are Oklahoma State, and we are in horse country,” Newlon said. “I thought, ‘Why don’t we have a ranch horse team? What is stopping us?’”

With excitement for a new team and a passion for the horse industry, Newlon applied for an internship at the OSU Charles and Linda Cline Equine Teaching Center her freshman year, she said. In her interview, she told her ranch horse team idea to Marissa Chapa, senior equine herd manager at the center, Newlon said.

“I went in, interviewed and told her my idea,” she said. “Marissa said, ‘That is a great idea! Let’s do it!’”

Originally from Kansas, Newlon said she did not know anyone on never really talked to her before I came to OSU and ran into her one day at North Dining.”

Chapa, now the team adviser, was excited to help the girls start the process, she said.

“Megan and her peers, like Sierra, are liaisons for the team and the right type of people to bring the initiative to start the team,” Chapa said.

With the team up and running, members like Newlon and Walter are key in the success and growth of the program, Chapa said.

“Some of those girls on the teams have a lot more experience than I do in the ranch horse events specifically and can offer another level of value and insight to their teammates that I personally don’t have experience in," Chapa said. 

To help aid in the success and building of the team, the team put together an executive committee, Newlon said. Members help with everything from sponsorships and paperwork to practice coordination, she said.

“Being a student-led organization, all the students have to really be foundational leaders,” Newlon said. “Because it is all students, not people getting paid to organize all of it. Everyone has to step up and want it.”

Student involvement is what sets this team apart from teams at other universities, Newlon said.

“Our members want to be here, and they want to make this better for all the students who will come after them,” Newlon said.

The team works to involve any student who is interested the industry, even if they do not show or have a horse, Newlon said.

“We want more novice riders to develop through our program,” Newlon said. “We wanted to connect students with the industry, as well. They will be able to have those contacts by the time they graduate and have more capacity to find jobs in industry.”

The OSU Ranch Horse Team works with the OSU Horseman’s Association to host clinics and connect students with the industry, Walter said.

“One of our goals, in terms of educating students, is networking,” Walter said. “Many of those types of opportunities, like clinics and educational seminars, are coordinated through the OSU Horseman’s Association.”

Many members of the OSU Ranch Horse Team hope its creation will help bring more students involved in ranch riding and cowhorse disciplines to OSU, Newlon said.

“In terms of recruiting students, this is a huge positive for OSU,” Walter said. “I know a lot of kids in high school who are not necessarily interested in being on an equestrian team, but they are interested in being on a ranch team.”

While meeting with prospective students and alumni, Chapa was asked about a ranch horse team, she said. Many prospective students who grew up showing want a way to stay competitive and involved in the equine industry during college, Chapa said.

As the ranch horse team continues to grow and build a presence, they prepare to ride for OSU at collegiate events, said Vivienne Sander, a sports management junior.

Sander is originally from Germany and first came to the U.S. as an exchange student in high school, she said. She was placed with a family in Oklahoma and was exposed to the ranch horse disciple and ranch lifestyle, she added.

After returning to the states for college, Sander was looking for a way to still ride and connect to the equine industry when she heard about the ranch team, she said. Being involved with the team helped her find community and continue her passion for riding, she added.

Amy D’Epagnier, animal science junior, learned about the creation of the ranch horse team while taking a class at the OSU Charles and Linda Cline Equine Teaching Center, she said. After watching her older sister compete on a ranch horse team for another university, she was eager to join in on the ground level, she added.

As a practice coordinator, D’Epagnier gets to work with the team and loves watching everyone learn and succeed, she said.

To help promote the new team, the executive committee created a slogan to reflect the team culture and goals, Newlon said. After much deliberation they settled on “Ride for the Ranch,” she added.

Each member has taken this and created his or her own meaning, but together they want to support each other and build a lasting reputation in the collegiate ranch horse community and at OSU, she said.

“We are not riding for our own benefit or personal gain,” D’Epagnier said. “It is more than that. It has to do with helping each other and being there for the ups and the downs.”

Support The Ride

Many two-year and four-year colleges around the country offer students the opportunity to compete in the ranch horse discipline at a collegiate level.

Teams compete in four events designed to demonstrate the skills needed by a working ranch horse: reining, ranch trail, ranch riding and working cow horse. Novice, limited and advanced non-pro riders make up each team.

A team can compete as Division I with four to six competitors or Division II with three to four competitors who are either novice or limited.

D-I teams are a combination of non-pro, limited and novice riders. The OSU Ranch Horse team is competing at the D-II level, and riders provide their own horses.

In 2021-2022, the team had 40 members but not all competed. Without direct funding from the university, members fund themselves for their competitions.

To support the OSU Ranch Horse Team Fund, visit OSU Foundation or call 800-622-4678.

Story By: Madelyn Owens | Cowboy Journal

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