When School Comes First: My First Semester As A College Equestrian

November 29, 2019

 Last year, when I received my acceptance letter to my dream school, I was over the moon. One of the first things I started researching wasn't which dorm I was going to choose or what dining plan to get, it was how I was going to be able to ride.


The university has an NCAA equestrian team, but I was (and still am) nowhere near that level.  I emailed the equine advisor to see about an IHSA (club level) team, but they were still working on starting it. When I visited the school again after I had been admitted, I had done some research and found a barn that I thought would fit my style. I toured and talked to the trainer, who was very nice, and decided that I had found the barn I would ride at in the fall. 


Along with riding for my barn's high school IEA team, senior year was spent taking a break from the local circuit and competing on the Arabian show circuit with my 20-year-old lease horse. The hardest part of moving 800 miles away for college was saying goodbye to him and my barn family, but it was time for him to find a new kid that will take him in the beginner ring.


I moved into my dorm in August and met my roommate. I love my dorm, and I especially love its closet space. I have one side of a closet that is just for riding gear, including my riding clothes, boots, helmet, and saddle. The next week, after I had started my classes and figured out my schedule, I went out to the barn to try a lesson. 


It went HORRIBLY. 


The trainer and I did not click at all. She didn't believe in my riding ability and did not like my equitation style. She told me no judge would like my riding, at which point I pointed out that my trainer back home is a judge and this was how she taught me how to ride. She just kept degrading my riding and trying to get me to pick up bad riding habits because she saw it as "correct", everything from sitting on my pockets to having my hands in my lap. She directly told me: "I would let you jump him, if I thought you could stay on." I left that lesson sad and defeated, I felt like my riding was terrible. I missed my barn and my trainer and my horse, and felt like there was no way I would ever find a barn.


My saddle sat in my closet as life moved on. I took my classes, joined sorority, and made new friends. I took exams and worked on assignments, and while I missed riding, I had schoolwork to focus on so it was put on the back burner. I just did not have time to work on finding a new barn. My friend Charlotte knew how much I missed riding. She had brought her horse down with her and was training with a young trainer she loved. She told me that there was no harm in trying another barn and I agreed that she was right. I scheduled a lesson with her trainer and waited to be told I didn't know how to ride.


Instead, the lesson went GREAT. The trainer immediately found my bad habits and helped me correct them. I explained to her my riding anxiety and she was very understanding. I rode her large Warmblood mare, a big difference from my small Arabian gelding I was riding before. It was a great lesson, and before I had left I had already scheduled my next lesson. Between my midterms schedule and her travel for indoors, I had to wait a few weeks before my next lesson. After that I was going to start trying to fit in a lesson weekly.

this is the "gotta go straight from class to the barn" look


Sadly, life had other plans, and after my second lesson I got a bad case of mono that landed me in the hospital for a week and out of school the rest of the semester. I am slowly getting better and building up strength, but it will still be a while before they let me get on a horse again. I cannot wait to start riding again next semester on a regular basis.




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