The Academic Equestrian: The Realities of College

It’s not all trail rides and blue ribbons.

Cricket in his winter plumage.

Cricket in his winter plumage.

Midterms have come and gone, and so has the four-day weekend in which I was able to breathe a sigh of relief that I hadn’t failed all of my classes and catch up on sleep and home-cooked meals. We’re just starting out on the second half of the semester, and I’m told that it will be significantly busier and more stressful than the first half. However, I’m not sure if this applies to the entire remainder of the semester or just the few weeks leading up to finals. I will reserve judgment until I can say for myself what the second half of the semester is like.

So far I’ve mostly focused on the positive aspects of college life, but there are several things I wish were different (with varying degrees of seriousness).

  1. I really, really wish my neighbors would be quiet at night. Being an equestrian means early morning practices (we’re talking 6:30 and 7:30 AM — before dawn in the winter months), which means that loud music and inexplicable and constant screeching at 2AM is even more unamusing when you have to get up at 5:30. It’s QUIET HOURS, people. Even when they are considerate enough to be relatively quiet when they’re awake at all hours of the night, it’s still an adjustment from living in a farmhouse where the only noise I can hear is my dad snoring downstairs, and even then only if I really concentrate.
  2. At home, my horse lived in the barn next to my house. I could stroll out at 9PM in my pajamas and fuzzy socks with flip flops to tell him goodnight and no one would think anything of it. Here, a trip to see him involves a haul down three flights of stairs, a ten-minute drive, and actual clothes because flip flops and fuzzy socks just don’t cut it when you actually have to go somewhere. That said, it’s a petty inconvenience and it’s definitely a better arrangement than having to drive an hour home every time I want to see him.
  3. Other people feed my horse, turn him out, and blanket him. This is really convenient but it’s super weird having the barn staff take care of him since, at home, that’s my job. It makes me vaguely uncomfortable every time someone has a story about Cricket that I wasn’t there for: “This morning when I was bringing horses in, Cricket did _________!” On one hand, thanks for noticing his cuteness and sweet personality, but I’m not sure how I feel that you know my horse better than I do in terms of his behavior when you lead him in from the pasture. I would imagine that this is a less-extreme version of what parents feel like when they send their firstborn child to preschool.
  4. I wish there was real food here. Cricket gets the same food he gets at home and three meals every day delivered to his stall, while I’ve been downgraded to fruit syrup smoothies and the occasional questionable quesadilla. Every time I think I’ve acclimated to the food on campus, I visit home and my expectations are raised again by my family’s cooking.
  5. There are so many weird little things I forgot at home and they become evident at the most inconvenient times. Fingernail clippers, for example — that’s not something I remembered I needed until I had veritable talons complete with barn dirt that wouldn’t come out from under them and probably looked like some sort of diseased bird of prey. Show Sheen is another item that I don’t use much until it’s mud season (aka fall) and Cricket’s winter coat starts to come in — caked-on mud, weather too cold for a bath, and a lack of Show Sheen lend themselves to a permanently grimy horse. Today, I rode bareback and inadvertently cleaned off my horse’s back with my butt and legs, which in turn made me so dirty that there’s a bareback-butt imprint on the seat of my car and, I suspect, the chair at my desk at which I am sitting now.
Bareback butt, a common equestrian condition.

Bareback butt, a common equestrian condition.

These were really all the complaints I could think of offhand, so I guess college life isn’t really as bad as it may seem at times.

Go riding!

Haley Ruffner is attending Alfred University, majoring in English and minoring in Business and Equestrian Studies. She has a green Quarter Horse, At Last an Invitation “Cricket,” and he is also “enrolled” at Alfred. She rides western and hunt seat and also loves to rein and trail ride.

haley bio

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