Equestrian U: Riding for college credit

Breanne Long, a senior at North Caroline State University, took riding lessons as a PE elective this semester. Today she shares the story of her final exam!

From Breanne:

PE 260: Intermediate Equitation (1 credit hour)

Prerequisite: Beginning Equitation

Course Description: “This course is designed to apply knowledge of the fundamentals of health related fitness toward developing, maintaining, and sustaining active and healthy lifestyle through equestrian sports. Intermediate techniques, theories and performance in equitation including skill at walk, trot, canter over ground poles and small cross bars will be taught. Care of the horse, tack and safety around horses will be assessed. Students will travel off campus once a week. Students must meet the weight restriction of the North American Horseman’s Association. Refer to the online schedule of classes for the current fee. Students must provide their own transportation to the stable, paddock boots, and riding pants.”

This was our final week of class and also our final exam. I’ve been riding Bob for most of the class so I was pretty confident I knew him well enough that we would do okay. I snuck him some carrots and promised him more after our ride if he listened well. It must have worked because he did very well and worked hard for me!


View from the road

We warmed up as usual with everyone in the arena and walked/trotted/cantered both directions. I asked to go first or second because Bob gets pretty stiff and lazy and I didn’t want him to be standing out in the cold for a long time before we went back in to ride. I ended up going second and everyone was lined up in the lane along the long side of the arena in the order they were to ride. I felt bad for the girls who went last because they weren’t allowed to keep their horse walking around at all to keep them loosened up and listening.

I was a little nervous but confident that I would remember the pattern, I went over it in my head a dozen times and drew it out once or twice on paper with dressage letters. The girl before me got flustered when her mare tripped and then ended up picking up the wrong lead to the left and posted on the wrong diagonal for the remainder of her test. After she finished the instructors asked us what we thought went wrong during the ride. I guess it’s a learning opportunity but it seemed kind of harsh to rehash it right in front of the rider. I suppose if we can’t laugh at ourselves and learn from our mistakes we’ll never get any better.


I thought we should look nice for our exam so I coordinated my shirt with Bob’s boots!

When Bob and I entered the ring we got a minute or two to warm back up before beginning the test. Overall I thought it went pretty well. I gave in to Bob’s tendency to lean into the bit and didn’t half halt early enough to signal him to trot after the right lead canter so we went a few strides past the letter. I was afraid if I half-halted too early he would trot right away, oh well. The “slow, sitting trot” was practically non-existent. I was worried that if I got him moving too slowly we wouldn’t be ready to pick up the left lead canter, which was the next movement. He still did really well and picked up his left lead pretty quickly. Our final trot/halt transition was terrible. By this point the whole weight of Bob’s head was in my hands and no amount of half-halting seemed to make a difference. We also never practiced trot/halt transitions and I wasn’t sure if a few steps of walk were acceptable. Note to self: think that through next time and ask before starting.

We got the same critique after our ride as the first student; this time, though, the instructor did all the critiquing and it was pretty much what I expected. She also pointed out my habitual over-zealous use of the outside rein, which is still a work in progress. I walked Bob to cool him out, even though it was 34 degrees that morning. We walked in the sunshine and watched a few other students ride their tests before heading back in to untack. Bob got his extra carrots, as promised.

It was a fun semester and I really looked forward to my Thursday mornings, even if it did require getting up at 6:30 a.m.! (To those of you who think 6:30 isn’t early, it is to a college student!)

Here is the very long video of our ride… it was really windy that day so to save everyone’s ears I put music over it (stock music from YouTube that just happened to match the length of the video).

About Breanne: I started riding at age 8, following in my older sisters footsteps. My first horse was a cranky 32-year-old appaloosa and my last horse before college was a bay TB mare. I showed hunters but stopped riding once I started college. Now I’m slowly getting back into the horse world and would love to try eventing in the future.

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