10 Tips to Get Barn Time While in Col­lege

En•ur­ing that hor•e• re­main a part of everyday life while bal­anc­ing the rigor• of a col­le­giate •et­ting i• po••ible.

Practical Horseman - - News - By Kim F. Miller

In­com­ing col­lege fresh­men may won­der if it’s pos­si­ble to bal­ance school and rid­ing. Here are 10 help­ful tips for tra­di­tional and creative op­tions to stay in­volved with horses.

Come spring, most high-school se­niors will ex­pe­ri­ence the joy and re­lief of get­ting ac­cepted into a col­lege. For eques­tri­ans, how­ever, the mo­ment may be tem­pered by a tough de­ci­sion: whether and how to keep horses in your life for the next four years of school. Below are 10 sug­ges­tions to make that de­ci­sion eas­ier.

1. Take Your Horse with You

Ask 10 peo­ple if it’s a good idea to take your horse to col­lege and you’ll get 11 dif­fer­ent an­swers. Add to that the myr­iad vari­ables in­volved, start­ing with aca­demic goals, rid­ing am­bi­tions, bud­get and time avail­abil­ity, and there’s no easy an­swer. There is a con­sen­sus that hav­ing your horse at school adds a heavy ball to what is al­ready a jug­gling act of your col­lege ex­pe­ri­ence. Some rid­ers swear by it, re­port­ing that hav­ing their steed at school main­tains struc­ture and con­ti­nu­ity in their lives and man­dates care­ful time man­age­ment—of­ten money man­age­ment, too. The hard work of horse­man­ship can be a stress re­liever and sim­ple quiet time with your horse can of­fer com­fort in this new and un­fa­mil­iar phase of life.

The cost of keep­ing a horse at or near your school varies, but there are ways to de­fray it. If you choose a school with a rid­ing team, you may be able to lease your horse part-time to the team. Pri­vately owned sta­bles may of­fer the chance to work off board by muck­ing stalls, teach­ing lessons or help­ing with on­line mar­ket­ing.

2. Ride for Your School Team

You don’t need your own horse to ride for most col­le­giate eques­trian teams, so this is a much less ex­pen­sive way to stay in the sad­dle. Rid­ing un­fa­mil­iar horses, usu­ally owned by the school, is the com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor in col­le­giate eques­trian com­pe­ti­tion gov­erned by sev­eral or­ga­ni­za­tions. In most cases, you prac­tice on team horses at your school. At shows, mounts are ran­domly drawn and there is very lit­tle, if any, time to be­come fa­mil­iar with them be­fore en­ter­ing the show ring. Rid­ing on the school team is one way to stay in the sad­dle. Plus, you don’t need your own horse for most col­le­giate eques­trian teams, so this is a cost-friendly op­tion.

See the side­bar on page 28 for an overview of the dif­fer­ent types of col­le­giate team rid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

3. Cul­ti­vate Con­nec­tions Now

Reach­ing out to men­tors and es­tab­lish­ing a net­work of con­nec­tions now, in high school, can have im­me­di­ate and long-term ben­e­fits. Twenty-five-year-old

Za­zou Hoff­man ad­mits she’s not nat­u­rally an out­go­ing person but push­ing her­self to “en­gage with pro­fes­sion­als” from a young age served her well. (She ad­mits she had a help­ful nudge from her mom in this de­part­ment.) Ef­fec­tive catch-rid­ing as a ju­nior was a nice call­ing card for net­work­ing, too.

“It’s really im­por­tant to en­gage with your lo­cal train­ers and rid­ers,” she ad­vises. “If you can get to know them a lit­tle, you’ll have some peo­ple you can call if you need some­thing.”

In Za­zou’s case, her need was to get back in the sad­dle dur­ing her fresh­man year at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Los An­ge­les. She had ini­tially de­cided to take a break from horses, but wound up miss­ing it too much, even while en­joy­ing the aca­demic and so­cial scene at UCLA.

A call to coach Susie Schroer, of Los An­ge­les hunter/jumper pro­gram Meadow Grove, to see if she could hack a horse here and there turned up a part-time rid­ing po­si­tion. “It ended up be­ing more of a com­mit­ment than I thought I was in­ter­ested in,” Za­zou re­calls. “It did cut into some of the ac­tiv­i­ties you would nor­mally be in­volved with in col­lege, but it also kept me bal­anced in terms of my sched­ule. I never got be­hind in my classes be­cause I al­ways knew I had to carve out time to help out at Meadow Grove.” The po­si­tion of­ten in­volved 20 hours a week when the train­ing barn was at home and some­times full days Thurs­day through Sun­day help- ing out dur­ing the HITS Desert Cir­cuit in Ther­mal. “A lot of kids lose track of time man­age­ment when they go off to col­lege, but for me, I think my strong­est quar­ters were when I was work­ing for Meadow Grove.”

Upon grad­u­at­ing, the 2009 Ma­clay Fi­nals win­ner was of­fered her cur­rent post of as­sis­tant trainer at Meadow Grove. This year Za­zou is de­but­ing on the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jump­ing cir­cuit on two horses owned by client Sa­ree Kayne.

4. Take Rid­ing as Phys­i­cal Ed­u­ca­tion

Uni­ver­si­ties that have an eques­trian fa­cil­ity on cam­pus, typ­i­cally those with equine stud­ies and/or agri­cul­ture pro-

grams, of­ten of­fer horse­back rid­ing as a phys­i­cal-ed­u­ca­tion class. The level of rid­ing may not be quite what you are used to, but it’s an af­ford­able way to get a reg­u­lar fix of sad­dle time and sta­ble scents.

5. Con­sider Un­fa­mil­iar Dis­ci­plines

Col­lege is a time of ex­plo­ration that can reach far be­yond aca­demics. If you’re a jumper rider and you find your­self at a col­lege in the Mecca of work­ing ranch Quar­ter Horses, say “yes” to any chance to take an­other sad­dle and a dif­fer­ent type of horse for a spin. Open minds open doors!

6. Comin­gle Aca­demics And Eques­trian In­ter­ests

Most col­lege aca­demic tracks en­cour­age or re­quire an in­tern­ship in your field of study. If you’re an ac­count­ing or mar­ket­ing ma­jor, for ex­am­ple, reach out to an equine-re­lated com­pany and ask about in­tern­ships where those skills can be ap­plied. You may or may not get out in the field with horses, but at least you’ll be work­ing along­side fel­low horsepeo­ple and gain­ing ca­reer ex­pe­ri­ence.

Or work it from the other di­rec­tion: “There are so many ways to get in­volved in re­search with horses or as an ath­lete,” sug­gests Duke Univer­sity se­nior and jumper rider Macken­zie Drazan. “What­ever your ma­jor is, think of ways to ap­ply it to the eques­trian world. If it’s eco­nom­ics, study the eco­nom­ics of the horse busi­ness.”

7. Vol­un­teer with a Ther­a­peu­tic Rid­ing Cen­ter

Michelle Hock­ley, vol­un­teer co­or­di­na­tor at SIRE Ther­a­peu­tic Rid­ing in Hous­ton, Texas, loves col­lege (and high-school) stu­dents. From a prac­ti­cal per­spec­tive, they are of­ten avail­able to cover af­ter­noon and evening ac­tiv­i­ties that adult vol­un­teers can­not.

Vol­un­teers with horse ex­pe­ri­ence are great can­di­dates for leader roles at SIRE. That in­volves get­ting a horse ready for his ses­sion with a client: groom­ing, lay­ing out the tack, etc. Vol­un­teers who are com­fort­able around horses and have con­sis­tently chipped in for a se­mes­ter or more are can­di­dates for SIRE’s barn bud­dies pro­gram. “You get as­signed to be a buddy to one of our horses to give them some ex­tra love.” Most op­por­tu­ni­ties in­volve ground work, not rid­ing, al­though “there is a lit­tle av­enue here where a few girls, ex­pe­ri­enced eques­tri­ans, will ride our horses.”

The side-walker role is com­pletely client-fo­cused, so it does not re­quire pre­vi­ous horse ex­pe­ri­ence but will get you out to the barn. Stall muck­ers and aisle sweep­ers are al­ways in de­mand.

As far as time com­mit­ment, SIRE requires one hour a week, at a spe­cific time, and “to treat it like a job—a fun one.

“It’s really a great place to vol­un­teer,” Michelle con­tin­ues. “It’s out­side, it’s phys­i­cal, the clients are amaz­ing and I think it gives you a bet­ter ap­pre­ci­a­tion for ev­ery­thing. It’s really neat to see these rid­ers and horses bond.”

The Pro­fes­sional As­so­ci­a­tion of Thera- peu­tic Horse­man­ship In­ter­na­tional is a good re­source for lo­cat­ing a pro­gram near you. Visit www.pathintl.org, which has a na­tional di­rec­tory of cen­ters.

8. Vol­un­teer with an Equine Res­cue

“We, and every res­cue I know of, are al­ways short of vol­un­teers,” says Mary Martin, founder and pres­i­dent of New Eng­land Equine Res­cue North, Inc., in West New­bury, Mas­sachusetts. The avail­able task list at NEER is long: barn and stall clean­ing, groom­ing, yard work and gen­eral main­te­nance, for starters.

Mary notes that every res­cue has a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to rid­ing its horses. If the horse landed at NEER be­cause of be­hav­ioral issues, re­train­ing, if pos­si­ble, is crit­i­cal to the “re­ha­bil­i­tate and re-home” part of its mis­sion. “I do al­low vol­un­teers to ride our horses, but they have to be very ad­vanced,” Mary ex­plains. “Most [horses] have issues that need to be worked through to make them adopt­able.

“We also have horses that are dead­safe for a be­gin­ning horseper­son to learn groom­ing skills,” she con­tin­ues. “We’re happy to show peo­ple who don’t know about horses how to work with them safely.”

Vol­un­teer­ing at a res­cue can be the equiv­a­lent of earn­ing a masters de­gree in horse­man­ship, es­pe­cially for those con­sid­er­ing or en­rolled in a pre-vet­eri­nary track. It can be an eye-opener for those com­ing from a back­ground with fat, shiny show horses. A horse who’s food-ag­gres­sive, for ex­am­ple, might seem to war­rant a per­ma­nent bad-boy la­bel. Of­ten, though, that be­hav­ior dis­ap­pears once his star­va­tion days are be­hind him.

Be­yond hav­ing vol­un­teers work di­rectly with the horses, res­cues also rely on ad­min­is­tra­tive help, and so­cial-me­dia savvy is a bless­ing for pro­mot­ing aware­ness, events and fundrais­ing.

NEER is flex­i­ble re­gard­ing vol­un­teer sched­ules, and there’s al­ways ex­tra need on the week­days and dur­ing bad weather.

Vet­ting a res­cue’s le­git­i­macy is an im­por­tant pre-vol­un­teer step. NEER, for

ex­am­ple, is a cer­ti­fied 501c3 char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion and is well-rated by sev­eral non­profit mon­i­tor­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing GuideS­tar. It’s also a mem­ber of A Home For Every Horse (www.ahome forevery­horse.com) and the Un­wanted Horse Coali­tion (www.un­want­ed­horsecoali­tion.org). Both or­ga­ni­za­tions are good places to start the search for a rep­utable res­cue.

9. Vol­un­teer at a Com­pe­ti­tion or Clinic

Com­pe­ti­tion and clinic or­ga­niz­ers are al­most al­ways in need of warm bod­ies, and a warm body with horse ex­pe­ri­ence is

es­pe­cially valu­able. This is true of event­ing and dres­sage com­pe­ti­tions of any size and hunter/jumper shows that are smaller and/ or run by lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Or­ga­niz­ers usu­ally have an on­line signup process or vol­un­teer co­or­di­na­tors who will hap­pily plug you into a fun and of­ten ed­u­ca­tional po­si­tion. This is a great way to get ac­quainted with the eques­trian scene in your col­lege’s area and start net­work­ing in ways that might lead to rid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties down the road.

Visit the web­sites of each dis­ci­pline’s U.S. Eques­trian Fed­er­a­tion af­fil­i­ate to find event cal­en­dars that can be fil­tered by re­gion. For dres­sage, that’s www.usdf.org; for event­ing, it’s www.usev­ent­ing.com; for hunter/jumpers, it’s www.ushja.org. And don’t for­get U.S. Pony Club: www.pony­club.org.

Wher­ever you vol­un­teer, take it se­ri­ously. Be re­li­able, re­spect­ful and en­thu­si­as­tic about the op­por­tu­nity to be out and about among horses and horse- peo­ple. You never know where it will lead you.

10. Start a Team

Kate Bog­gan of San An­to­nio went to Texas A&M to earn an an­i­mal-science de­gree. The big school in Col­lege Sta­tion, Texas, has Na­tional Col­le­giate Eques­trian As­so­ci­a­tion hunt seat and Western teams, but as a life­long even­ter, Kate wanted an op­por­tu­nity to ride for her school. So she started an event­ing team her­self. She had guid­ance from the school’s club ac­tiv­i­ties’ ad­min­is­tra­tors but did most of the work her­self and with the team’s char­ter mem­bers. It helped sig­nif­i­cantly that Kate spent two sum­mers in­tern­ing for the U.S. Event­ing As­so­ci­a­tion just as the or­ga­ni­za­tion was launch­ing its In­ter­col­le­giate Event­ing Pro­gram. She gained first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence with mar­ket­ing and spon­sor­ship issues and ap­plied it all when the club got its of­fi­cial start in the fall of 2015.

Along with be­ing able to event un­der the Ag­gies’ ma­roon ban­ner, Kate got a sig­nif­i­cant leg up in her ca­reer prepa­ra­tion and plan­ning. “I was in­ter­ested in equine re­pro­duc­tion and I still en­joy that, but after start­ing the event­ing team I found that I really love this ad­min­is­tra­tive role, so I may be look­ing for a ca­reer on that side of the busi­ness,” she ex­plains. “Start­ing the team opened up a pool of op­por­tu­ni­ties and skills that I didn’t even know I had.” The or­ga­niz­ing, pro­mot­ing, travel-ar­rang­ing, bud­get­ing and fundrais­ing skills re­quired to start and main­tain a club eques­trian team are ter­rific re­sume high­lights for rid­ers gal­lop­ing off into any pro­fes­sional field.

Bal­anc­ing barn time while en­rolled in a col­lege or univer­sity may be chal­leng­ing, but it is pos­si­ble to achieve. Whether it’s rid­ing on a team, vol­un­teer­ing or try­ing some­thing new, there are plenty of straight­for­ward as well as un­con­ven­tional op­tions within reach.

Uni­ver­si­ties that have an eques­trian fa­cil­ity on cam­pus of­ten of­fer horse­back rid­ing as a phys­i­cal-ed­u­ca­tion class.

Con­sider vol­un­teer­ing with a ther­a­peu­tic rid­ing cen­ter, where you can spend time with horses while help­ing oth­ers.

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