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New Mexico State University

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NMSU Equestrian Team Places 7th in National Western Horsemanship Competition

LAS CRUCES--Riders from New Mexico State University, the defending national champions in Western horsemanship, placed seventh at the Intercollegiate Horse Show in Cazenovia, N.Y., April 23-25.

Four hundred sixty-one riders in both English and Western horsemanship were judged on their position atop an unfamiliar horse, said Debbie Jones, team coach and instructor with NMSU's department of animal and range sciences.

"The goal is for the rider and horse to work together as one unit," she said.

NMSU's four member team consisted of Amy Allen of Deming, Kristi Gottsponer of Las Cruces, Wendy Jackson-Keiss of Los Alamos and Jeb Stuart of Las Cruces.

Allen placed seventh in the beginning Western division, Gottsponer was fifth in intermediate Western, and Stuart placed third in open reining.

"I'm very proud of them because they rode their horses thinking," Jones said.

This was Jones' first year as NMSU coach and first time at nationals.

"Intercollegiate showing is so different than regular horse showing because so much of the coaching is mentally preparing the individual before they get there," she said.

In a separate division for individual riders, NMSU's Cathy Cumberworth from Farmington won the alumni reining division.

Other NMSU riders were Jessica Ackerman from Albuquerque, fifth in novice equitation over fences; Melanie Curry from Los Lunas, fifth in beginner Western; and Sam Marusich from Artesia, eighth in walk/trot equitation.Stuart also placed eighth individually in open Western.

Jones said the students practiced every afternoon for approximately two hours to prepare for the competition.

In the past five years, the NMSU Equestrian Team won two national championships in Western horsemanship in 1995 and 1998, and took reserve national champion in 1997.