Throughout the school year, students are spotted at shows doing their assignments. Photo © Livvie Van Lanen

Balancing Horse Showing and School: University Edition

School, jobs, Greek life, clubs, social life…the list just goes on and on for college students. Today, students are being asked to handle much more than just receiving their degree. Employers are looking for well-rounded individuals who can get work experience while managing college and other activities. But there are a lucky few who can continue their showing career all while seeking a degree and doing the multitude of activities that are expected of them. As spring break gets started and the opportunity for mixing in some horse time becomes a reality, we spoke with several students who gave us their advice on how to manage a busy school schedule while showing.

Set Realistic Goals

Setting realistic goals is a vital part to keeping you from getting frustrated when every ride does not go as planned. “You can’t expect to travel every weekend, like you may have been in high school,” University of Georgia Senior and AQHA exhibitor, Jane Sutcliff says. “You just have that expectation and be okay with it and adjust your goals accordingly,” she continues. “It’s an awesome goal for anyone to try to go for an all-around or specifically a high point in the trail, but I realize that once I got to school, it would be hard. You have to balance so many things, and that can’t be a top priority, even if you want it to be.”

“My long-term goals have become a lot more effective than my short-term goals,” says Hannah Frede (pictured right), a University of Cincinnati sophomore and AQHA exhibitor. “I try to make the most of every ride, so I’m not getting frustrated or getting hung up on one maneuver that I am struggling with. I try to look at the bigger picture.”

AQHA World Champion and MTSU graduate student Ariel Herrin says, “My horse showing career has not been as limited in AQHA shows as thought it would be,” but agrees that you should expect not to be able to show every weekend like you did as a youth.

Keep a Balance

Even if you can’t ride your horse as much as you want, there are plenty of opportunities that schools offer to keep your skills up. While not all schools offer those coveted NCEA programs, many offer Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association, IHSA, teams. With that in mind, you should also try new things, join different clubs, and make new friends. College is about discovering what you like and what want to do with the rest of your life.

“I have found that if you enjoy every single part of the day, you won’t want to quit,” says Jane. “You have to be excited going towards what you want to do, and you have to love what you’re going to do.”

Even as a NCEA Rider for Georgia, Jane (pictured left) has found other things to be involved in, she is a member of Alpha Chi Omega, is a research assistant at the Clinical Cognitive Neuroscience lab at Georgia, and is part of Psi Chi, the National Honors Society for Psychology, to name a few.

Being involved in many different clubs can expand your friend group and allows you to learn new things. However, some cannot help but be involved with horses throughout their entire college experience. Ariel, who studies horse science as a graduate student, says, “Horses are much of what I do, the hardest part for me is making myself study. I’d much rather be riding, messing with horses, or even cleaning the barn. That’s very time consuming, and I have to set aside time for that.”

Hannah is also involved in activities outside of horses. She is the Marketing Director for the Chi Omega sorority chapter at the University of Cincinnati, has a co-op at General Electric’s Global Headquarters in Cincinnati, and is the Vice President for the Western IHSA team at UC as well. Hannah says, “Because I am involved in so many activities, I appreciate being at the barn more. I’m not dragging myself to it; I want to go.”

Keep Track of your Schedule

Being organized is one thing that your parents always told you to do, but you never really believed them. “I am the type of person who will forget to go to class if I didn’t write it down,” says Ariel. “My planner has my class times, my barn hours, my riding times, my weekends, and what horse shows I will attend. It is very detailed.” She continues, “In high school, the work is pretty easy, but as soon as I got to college, I realized that I was too forgetful. So I have kept one all through college.”

Jane also uses a planner to keep track of her busy schedule. “I keep a very meticulous schedule and give an allotted amount of time to each activity.” She continues, “Monday through Friday, I have an hour-by-hour plan of where I need to be. I also make a to-do list of what I need to accomplish for the day.”

“When a horse show is coming up, I try to get as much of the work done as I can,” says Hannah. She found it useful to plan her whole week all at one time. “I would sit down and look at my schedule for each class, plan out everything that is due, and schedule times to do it.”

Work with your Professors

Professors can be a hindrance to your horse showing plans, but sometimes they can surprise you. “I am always up front with my professors,” says Ariel (pictured left). “On syllabus day, I feel out how much school I can miss. I have never booked a plane ticket before I see the attendance policy.” She also feels that it is important to stress how big of a deal these shows are. “I try to keep them up to date and work hard in my classes. I don’t want to let them down by falling behind.”

Hannah agrees that being up front with professor helps her plan. “It depends on your class and your teacher because some teachers take attendance, but a lot of them are understanding.” She has found they are much more understanding if you come to them a week or two in advance, and are willing to help you.

Jane shares their sentiment, however, she is a student-athlete, so she gets official releases. “At the beginning of the year, students receive letters from the athletic department that have all the information about meet dates and times.” Jane says most professors are accommodating and she has only had issues when she is missing major assignments. She continues, “I try to email them as soon as possible to reschedule exams I know I’ll be missing.”

All agree that showing can be difficult to manage while in school but it is very rewarding and can often keep those lucky enough to show, sane. With some organization and planning, it can be accomplished and you might even thrive at other aspects of your college career because of it. However, even if you can’t show through college, don’t let it get you down. Like my mom always says, this is one sport you can pick back up no matter how old you are.

About the Author: GoHorseShow intern, Marcus Hanson is a student originally from Knoxville, TN, and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Marketing at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, TN. When not at school, he loves to show his horse Jacks Hot Impulse in Amateur Showmanship, Horsemanship, and Trail on the AQHA circuit.