The Academic Equestrian reports.
Haley is the author of Horse Nation’s “Academic Equestrian” series, following her collegiate experience as she balances her studies with participation on the varsity equestrian team and time with her own horse. Catch up on past columns by clicking the #ACADEMIC EQUESTRIAN tag at the top of the page!
As the end of my second semester as a college student approaches, it has increasingly come to my attention that there are an uncanny number of similarities between being a college student and riding in horse shows. The two are not mutually exclusive, but in doing both it would seem as though riding horses has, in some ways, prepared me for college life.
1. Horse shows and finals week are basically the same thing.
The former is admittedly the much more enjoyable experience of the two — but in both, you spend an obscene amount of time preparing and stressing, and when the day comes you are tested on what you learned and your performance in a particular subject or discipline. You might cry during the course of either one, but doing so is frowned upon by both professors and judges. Sometimes you can do well without much studying or practice, and other times you’re out of your league despite lots of preparation.
2. Late nights are common.
Even if you try to go to sleep early, the people in the camper/hotel room or dorm room next door are awake and perhaps drinking. Be confident and/or smug in the knowledge that you can make it through classes the next day on top of your game and without a nasty hangover.
3. Both are ridiculously expensive. (Both at the same time is bad news—say goodbye to every paycheck that comes in and hope your parents will feed you when you go home.)
When you’re not involved with either showing or going to class, you are probably at work. Each new semester or horse show bill makes you want to drop out or quit showing and start a full-time job to pay for board and groceries. Ramen noodles are a food group for college students and broke equestrians.
4. There are more learning opportunities than you’ll know what to do with.
Whether it’s training clinics or academic forums, there will be some scheduled all the time. You’ll attend as many as possible but still wonder what you could’ve learned at the few you couldn’t make it to.
In the end, you’ll be glad you did it. Someday, when all the student loans have been paid off and you’re in the career field of your choice, enjoying a well-paying job, your horse show trophies are lined up in your living room and your favorite memories are the ones spent with your best friends (human or horse), you will look back and realize that you wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
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.