My Life

Practical Horseman - - News - By Kelly Rhinelander

A col­lege stu­dent dis­cov­ers how to meld her two pas­sions into a fo­cused ca­reer path.

Col­lege] is where you dis­cover who you are and, more im­por­tantly, who you as­pire to be.

Ev­ery­one says that when you go to col­lege you will change your mind a hun­dred times about what you want to do while at school and in your fu­ture ca­reer. In my case, I be­gan fresh­man year at a small New Eng­land col­lege with two seem­ingly sep­a­rate pas­sions: horses and ho­tels. For the former, I wanted to be part of my col­lege’s eques­trian pro­gram and com­pete against other stu­dent ath­letes. For the lat­ter, I hoped to earn a de­gree in hos­pi­tal­ity man­age­ment with a fo­cus on the ho­tel in­dus­try. Now en­ter­ing my ju­nior year, I’m off to a new school with a goal of pur­su­ing a hos­pi­tal­ity-man­age­ment diploma geared around horse-re­lated events. Much to my de­light, I man­aged to meld my two pas­sions.

I don’t like to leave things to chance. So dur­ing my first year in col­lege, I had my short­and long-term fu­ture fig­ured out. After get­ting my hos­pi­tal­ity de­gree, I would find a job at a ho­tel and work my way up the ranks, be­gin­ning at an en­try-level desk po­si­tion with the goal of be­com­ing a gen­eral man­ager. How­ever, my first pro­fes­sional ex­po­sure in the in­dus­try was eye-open­ing. It took me many stress­ful weeks and 22 at­tempts to land an en­try-level in­tern­ship. While the ex­pe­ri­ence turned out to be amaz­ing and the peo­ple I worked with taught me so much, I felt some­thing was miss­ing. Learn­ing in depth about the in­dus­try for a few months was cap­ti­vat­ing in many ways, but the ex­cite­ment and pas­sion slowly wore off. Had I made a mis­take? Luck­ily, a cou­ple of events—one right after an­other—in­spired great changes in my life.

As a sopho­more cap­tain of my col­lege’s eques­trian team, one of my re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in­cluded or­ga­niz­ing vol­un­teers to man­age the horse shows that we hosted. To en­sure a suc­cess­ful event, I built lots of (prob­a­bly un­nec­es­sary) spread­sheets and de­vised many strate­gies. In the end, I found the ex­cite­ment of plan­ning to be even more sat­is­fy­ing than the ac­tual com­pe­ti­tion. As a re­sult, I re­al­ized two things: one, I was ex­hausted and two, I wanted to pur­sue a new ca­reer path in horse-re­lated hos­pi­tal­ity events.

Shortly after the show, I found my­self ap­ply­ing for a week-long in­tern­ship at the Ken­tucky Horse Park at the In­ter­col­le­giate Horse Shows As­so­ci­a­tion’s Na­tional Cham­pi­onship in Lexington. I quickly filled out the forms and crossed my fin­gers. This was an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity—a chance to really see what it takes to run a mas­sive, worl­drenowned horse show. Need­less to say, I was over­joyed when the good news of my ac­cep­tance ar­rived. Weeks later at the park, I met event co­or­di­na­tors, largescale food ven­dors, vol­un­teer co­or­di­na­tors, the press and the army of peo­ple it takes to cre­ate a suc­cess­ful event year after year. Dur­ing the event I worked to co­or­di­nate photo op­por­tu­ni­ties for the so­cial-me­dia team and also pro­vided spon­sors of the event with pho­tos fea­tur­ing their prod­ucts. As a com­peti­tor for most of my life, I was as­ton­ished to see the other side of a show of this size. I was hooked.

With new thoughts on aca­demics and my ca­reer, I de­cided to trans­fer from my sea­side col­lege to the Univer­sity of Ken­tucky. While leav­ing a school that I called home for two years brought lots of tears, I was ready for a change (and ready to wear lots of blue, UK’s color). Ken­tucky, the horse cap­i­tal of the world, is fa­mous for horse events. It is where I needed to be to achieve my goal.

Over time, I have dis­cov­ered that col­lege is not about fol­low­ing a pre­or­dained path. In­stead, it is a place that en­cour­ages ex­per­i­ment­ing and sup­ports trial and er­ror to help you iden­tify a true pas­sion (or two). It is where you dis­cover who you are and, more im­por­tantly, who you as­pire to be. It is highly un­likely that you will be the same person with the same dreams from the mo­ment you walk into ori­en­ta­tion to the day you ac­cept your diploma. My great­est ad­vice would be to not fear change. This is some­thing I must re­mind my­self con­stantly be­cause no mat­ter how scary it sounds, with­out change I would not be where I am to­day—or where I will be to­mor­row.

Univer­sity of Ken­tucky stu­dent Kelly Rhinelander has learned col­lege is not about fol­low­ing a pre­de­ter­mined path.

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