Thanks to a day off between the 2017 “Magic in the Metroplex” counselor tour and the spring edition of the College Preparatory Invitational Horse Show, I had the opportunity to head south to College Station, Texas and visit the state’s famed land grant institution, Texas A&M University. It was the perfect way to cap my week of campus tours in the Lone Star State.
Like any typically obsessed horse person, I didn’t begin my visit on main campus, but instead stopped first at the Thomas G. Hildebrand ’56 Equine Complex. (It was on the way in from the highway – I swear.) The Hildebrand Equine Complex is the place that not only serves as home base for the university’s NCEA equestrian team, but is also Phase I of the institution’s plan to expand and increase its veterinary and equine science laboratory facilities. In fact, an expanded breeding and exercise physiology center will soon be added as part of the Phase II expansion.
Because of its extensive property, the back half of the center also serves as the home cross-country course for TAMU’s men’s and women’s cross-country teams. And in the meantime, the Aggie equestrian team has the good fortune to practice in a facility designed specifically to meet their needs – right down to the outlets in each girl’s locker to charge her cell phone or plug in a hair dryer after practice.
After the Hildebrand complex, I next made my way to main campus to learn more about the traditions and student body of the school of just under 43,000 undergraduates. (It’s worth noting, however, that for the size of the school, the polite factor is through the roof – not only will students hold the door for you, but it seems that everyone on campus has a story about how a perfect stranger happily walked them to their destination when they were lost as a freshman or even as a new faculty or staff member!)
As the state’s first public institution of higher education, TAMU owes its existence to the Morrill Act, which created institutions of agricultural and technical education across the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. TAMU also has a military component to campus life, with approximately 2,400 students participating in their famed (and esteemed) Corps of Cadets, which was a required part of life for all students at the University’s founding because admission was limited to white males only. (Today the Corps is voluntary and open to students of all backgrounds and genders.) In fact, the Cadets make up the largest uniformed body at an educational institution outside the military service academies.
The sense of being a part of something bigger than oneself is the pervading atmosphere on TAMU’s campus and it carries over into everything, from the more than 130 academic major programs for undergraduates to choose from to the athletic opportunities (which extend to the equestrian team). Prospective riders who wish to be considered for the TAMU team must be aware of the requirements to ride within the NCAA (NCEA) structure, including proficiency at the top level of their discipline (hunt seat on the flat and over fences and western horsemanship comprise the NCEA disciplines), certification of amateur status, and certification of their high school curriculum and test scores. Anyone wanting to enter the recruiting process with TAMU should therefore begin their search and contact with university coaches early in their high school careers.