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Equestrian  . 

Carol Gwin has High Expectations for Gamecock Equestrian

by Brad Muller

Carol Gwin looks to hit the ground running. South Carolina’s new equestrian head coach is no stranger to the Gamecock program. She is also no stranger to being a part of a championship caliber program having won two straight national championships as the head coach at SMU after previously helping South Carolina earn back-to-back SEC Championships and a runner up at the NCEA National Championship when she was an assistant coach from 2010-2014. With that experience, she has high expectations for her first year back at South Carolina.

“I think the goal for year one is to get qualified for the NCEA National Championship, be in the championship round, and potentially get to play on Friday and Saturday,” said Gwin. “Goals for the SEC would be to get into that championship round have the opportunity to take down one of the powerhouse teams out there. Everybody is beatable. We just have to find a way to do it.

“It takes a very well-rounded team on all four sides. That was my biggest focus when I was at SMU. It’s great when your jumping seat team can go out there and win all the time, but you need to give the same means to your Western team. I’m a big believer that everybody contributes points to get the W. That’s the way this program will be focused.”

While she leaves the much larger state of Texas to come back to the Palmetto State, Gwin plans to recruit nationally and be a presence in the local community.

“There are very few slots on a division one equestrian team that open each year,” Gwin said. “It’s a competitive process. I receive email from student-athletes from all over the country. A new piece to college athletics is the transfer portal, so we will be looking for some of those critical transfers that want to come in and make a big impact on a building program.

“The NIL piece is evolving. You have to find good partnerships within your community that will work well for your student-athletes. Everyone talks about paying players, but we’re looking for development and growth as they go from student-athlete and into the real world. They have to market themselves a little bit. Columbia and South Carolina offer some really good opportunities for them to come in and do that.”

“I’m a really fair coach, but I don’t like to lose. I’m going to find ways to win.”
Carol Gwin  . 

Gwin is thankful to former South Carolina coach Boo Major, who retired at the end of the 2024 season after 26 years leading the Gamecocks, for not only building a foundation for the garnet and black, but also providing mentorship. She is excited about what the Gamecocks have from a facilities standpoint, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be better.

“Coming from SMU where we didn’t have any foundation when I got there, coach Boo (Major), (assistant) coach (Kristen) Terebesi, and (assistant) coach (Bobbie) Piddock have done a great job in creating a really great framework for the program,” Gwin said. “Now we need to evolve it a little bit and take it up a notch. My first priorities here are, one, it’s always about the horse care and what we can do to make that experience even better. With the great facility we have, that’s pretty simple. We need to add a few stalls. They (horses) are our equipment, so we have to make sure we take care of our equipment. We’ll embark on a capital campaign to cover a larger portion of the arena. That will make the game day experience so much better and give the student-athletes a place to ride when the weather is inclement and give us the ability to control the footing that the reining horses are going to be on.

“Number two, I have to get to know the student-athletes that are already on the team. They’ve built a really good culture from what I understand. So, we need to truly embrace that culture and try to bring it to a little higher competition level. I’m a really fair coach, but I don’t like to lose. I’m going to find ways to win. I know we’re walking into the SEC, and I know what we have to do to be successful. I know we have a great foundation.”

Gwin noted that she is confident she will be able to attract high level recruits to South Carolina as well.

“This program sells itself,” Gwin said. “It’s in a beautiful area, and it’s a great academic experience for the student-athletes. You come out to the farm, and it’s nestled in such a beautiful area for the student-athletes to have that great experience with the sport of equestrian. (Barn Manager) Maggie (Barton) and (Assistant Barn Manager) Lydia (Roof) have done a great job of keeping the facility looking the part of a top SEC program.”