The Academic Equestrian: Equestrian Awareness

A tongue-in-cheek guide.

Never stop wearing boots. Even to prom. Photo by Maria Hurd.

Never stop wearing boots. Even to prom. Photo by Maria Hurd.

As a college equestrian, I like to ensure that absolutely everyone who ever encounters me knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that I ride horses. This is part of a movement to increase awareness for the term “equestrian,” educating college students on the sport whose name is unpronounceable to a significant percentage of them. Claiming the distinguished title of “that crazy horse girl” in high school wasn’t enough — I need all my professors, prospective boyfriends, peers, and employers to know that I ride horses.

Whenever anyone asks what my weekend plans are, I make sure to tell them all about the horse show I’m competing in. Or, if I don’t have a horse show, I instead go on about a show the previous weekend, or say that I’ve been so busy with horse showing that this is my first free weekend in ages. That finished, I talk about how I’m going to see my horse, or how I haven’t gone to see my horse in a long time, or about how my horse’s health has been (people love when you explain sheath cleaning in detail to them). It’s also ideal to pull out a cell phone or pocket scrapbook full of pictures of said horse to show to the unsuspecting acquaintance who was just trying to make polite small talk.

Clothing is also integral in proving your dedication to horseback riding. Wear boots (with spurs, if possible) and jeans or breeches to class, even if you’ve had ample time to change between practice and class. Don’t be afraid to try new, unconventional outfit combinations: boots, rowel spurs, and gym shorts are a daring match, but with confidence you can pull it off. Don’t wash your hands or try to brush off any horse hair from your clothes, and if you’re feeling especially horsey that day, don’t even remove your helmet. Just wear it around all day and stare down anyone who looks at you strangely. Articles of clothing with horses on them, equestrian-themed jewelry, and helmet hair are all must-haves in creating the equestrian look. Even if you have no excuse to dress for the barn, wear your horseshoe earrings, snaffle-bit bracelet, and riding belt.

As far as any boys that venture to approach you with romantic intentions, be sure to tell them right off the bat that they will always come second to your horse. Instead of making conversation, send him links to new tack you want, because his paycheck will be expected, naturally, to support your horses. Invite him to horse shows and force him to hold your horse all day. Take out your bad mood on him if you don’t win.

On social media, neglect said boyfriend and any other close friends or family members. Instead, focus exclusively on your horse. Post pictures of your horse until anyone following you on social media begins to think that the account is for your horse rather than yourself. Provide videos and updates on your horse’s everyday life, from him eating breakfast to being turned out or lunging before you ride.

Riding horses is not just a hobby — it’s an aspect of personality that should never be overlooked. By following these guidelines in all situations, you can ensure that everyone around you will be unable to mistake this piece of your identity.

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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