The Academic Equestrian: Spring, Exams and Mud

The eternal debate continues: study for exams, or go riding? Haley, the Academic Equestrian, describes how she balances both.
Cricket, aka "Pigpen." Photo by Haley Ruffner

Cricket, aka “Pigpen.” Photo by Haley Ruffner

Spring, it seems, has finally made its way to Alfred, melting the last snow heaps into thick mud puddles and releasing Cricket’s winter coat. My boots are muddy and my jackets are all covered in horsehair, but somehow none of that seems quite so bad because it also means that it’s nice enough to ride outside again.

As my second semester of college comes to a close, the improving weather seems both a blessing and a curse — how am I supposed to lock myself inside to study for finals when the sun is shining and the temperature is above freezing? In hindsight, fall semester finals are much easier to prepare for, since due to dismal December weather, there is nothing else to do besides sit indoors and study. Everything in me wants to look ahead — to summer, to the first open horse show of the year (this weekend!), to trail riding at home and summer jobs. The one blip in my schedule is finals week, coming up soon and promising to be stressful and difficult.

My book bag is a constant companion, whether I am walking to breakfast, going to the barn, or riding in the car with my roommate on a coffee run. This, I think, is my subconscious way of compensating for the hours I spend at the barn trying to make my animal look like a non-feral well-groomed horse. Homework on the go has proven to be an effective method of keeping up. Sitting alone at lunch? Do some homework. Someone you don’t like is talking to you? Pull out that study sheet. Awake for a midnight snack? Go over the day’s reading. Horse is behaving during a lesson? Set your laptop on the pommel of your saddle and organize your essay. Horse isn’t paying attention to you? Tape flash cards to your horse’s ears and memorize both sides as they rotate them. Go big or go home.

At the end of the day, even with having to keep up with homework and take care of Cricket, I’m glad that he’s there to shed all over every piece of clothing I own and slobber in my hair. It’s impossible to be stressed when you slog out to the pasture to catch your horse and instead encounter an indistinguishable mud monster who is oh-so-proud of himself. He’ll share the love with you too, pressing a muzzle encrusted with mud and hay into your hand and breathing softly, and in the moment you know that this peace is more memorable than any final exam you’ll ever take.

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!

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.

Photo courtesy of Haley Ruffner.

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