Academic Equestrian: Happy Birthday, Coach

The best way to give back to your hardworking equestrian team coach is to artfully destroy his office on his birthday. Haley Ruffner explains.

Your coach/trainer is way too important to get just a boring card on his birthday. Photo by Haley Ruffner.

Your coach/trainer is way too important to get just a boring card on his birthday. Photo by Haley Ruffner.

Coaching is arguably one of the most overlooked, under-appreciated professions—especially when one is coaching a team of college-aged girls in addition to holding the title of Director of the Alfred University Equestrian Center and all the responsibilities that entails. Thankfully, we have someone who is capable of handling all that while maintaining a positive outlook and sense of humor.

Steve Shank, director of the program and western coach, turned twenty-six last week (or was it sixty-two?). To show our gratitude and appreciation of all the work he puts in, some members of the team decided to decorate his office. If anyone is looking for ways to ensure that their coach never feels slighted, look no further. Below is a list of materials needed for a successful office decoration that feels both festive and unique.

  • Toilet paper. This works well as a three-dimensional design piece that creates a sense of welcome in any room.
  • Balloons. These are a quintessential birthday item. We recommend a “more is more” approach.
  • Whoopee cushion. To be placed on your favorite coach’s office chair under a horse cooler. By the time he or she wades through the other decorations to the chair, he or she will be so overcome with joy that the cooler will go unnoticed. The whoopee cushion, however, will not.
  • Personalized computer background. Your coach may have a generic desktop screensaver, but changing it to something heartfelt and meaningful fosters a bond between you and your coach. He or she will think of you every time the computer is open. For Steve, we felt that the image under “Space Horse” (a horse head with flipped-over bangs in front of a purple space scene) would bring him amusement on long work days. He is still mystified as to how it got there (and how to get rid of it).
  • Silly String. In Steve’s case, this fun material is waiting to be deployed at a later time, the details of which are unknown to the original office decorators.

Happy birthday, Steve, and thank you for all that you do. We can only hope that every birthday you spend at the equestrian center is as festive as this one.

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 with minors in Business and Equestrian Studies. She owns a Quarter horse gelding At Last An Invitation, or “Cricket.” Haley is the captain of the AU western equestrian team, and also competes in reining and loves trail riding.

Photo courtesy of Haley Ruffner.

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