No horse? No problem!
The hardest part of my transition into adulthood was my almost two-year-long state of horselessness. Horses have always been my happy place, my place of refuge, my stress relief and after two months without any form of horses in my life aside from YouTube and social media, I knew something was going to have to give.
So I scrounged around and searched in every nook and cranny for all the different ways I could have a quick sip of horses in my life. While these alternatives are in no way the same as owning or showing your own horse, they definitely helped me get the necessary horse fix for a brief period of time so I could make it through the day.
If you competed in Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association in college, then you can forever compete as an alumnus! You don’t even have to still ride/train at your school barn. There are no regulations to which region you compete in, you can represent your college from afar. As long as you have had over 24 weeks in a consistent training program, you are good to go. You can apply for IHSA Alumni membership online on the IHSA website.
Keep in mind that not all regions have an alumni division, so get in touch with your regional director to be sure this is an option for you. Then find a barn where you can ride on lesson horses and suddenly you can find yourself back in the horse show ring without the attached expenses of owning or leasing a horse.
Many communities have equine therapy programs for children with disabilities or for veterans readjusting to civilian life that area almost always seeking horse-knowledgeable volunteers. Some of these horses will need daily exercise to keep them happy and healthy, and during group therapies there is almost always a person leading or walking beside a horse and rider pair.
Volunteering at local events is also a great way to get some much needed soft velvety pony nose time. There are tons of rodeos and gaited shows in my community that had I had the time I could have volunteered to help with. From working the in-gate to operating the entry table, there are plenty of options for you to help out a local show and see lots of horses. Some places might even offer you compensation as well!
Another way to volunteer is to find a local rodeo, 4-H, or pony club and volunteer with them to help with the youth groups. Many Scout camps have horses during the summer and need help caring for them and leading the club trail rides. Other options for equine volunteer work could be offering your time at a local rescue/rehab facility or working for an OTTB rehoming network by going to the track and taking photos or descriptions. The options are endless and I promise there is SOMETHING near you that you could participate in.
While attending a church picnic, I stumbled across an older gentleman in the area that drove a draft team for community events. Desperate in my horseless state, I clung to him and soaked up all his knowledge and pretty much became his third arm. He was kind and patient and continued to invite me to help him with the events on his fall schedule. I was NEVER a draft horse girl prior to this experience so not only did I get in a good amount of horse time, but I also learned something new. There are valuable horse people near every community, they just may not be in your realm of expertise. Branch out of your comfort zone and network. Many horse people, especially those who have been doing this for years and years, are more than happy to take an experienced and ambitious horse person under their wing.
If you have the free time, pick up the phone and call local barns in your area and see if they need part time or weekend help! I know of a lot of show barns that need help at home when they travel to shows. In high school I started horse sitting for several owners who kept their horses at home and needed someone to muck stalls and feed if they went out of town. If the training barns in your area don’t need help, slap up an ad online or at your local tack and feed shops for your horse sitting services. Another great way to get your fix in and make some extra money while you do it!
There are TONS of ways to involve yourself in the horse community even if you don’t have a horse of your own. These opportunities provide you with plenty of learning experiences that will make you a more well-rounded equestrian and help you make important connections that can help you in the future with your equine endeavors. So get out there and search on, horse lovers. Have fun and go riding!