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Five Ways Showing Horses Prepares You for College

As equestrians, we all are familiar with the impact that our horses have on our lives.  Sometimes it is on our bank accounts, other times on our mood, and most definitely on our day-to-day schedules. They are our closest companions and partners in the show pen. They are also some of the best teachers we will ever have.

But, there comes the point in every youth competitor’s career when their education transfers from the one in the show pen during high school to the one on a college campus. It is a massive adjustment, leaving friends, family, familiarity, and of course, their horses behind as they embark on the next part of their journey.

What many of these competitors will come to find during their first weeks of college is this: the lessons they learned from their years showing horses did not stop at the barn doors. Our horses teach us skills that transcend far into matters that seem so distant from the world of horse shows, including college. 

GoHorseShow has compiled a list of some of the most critical ways showing horses prepares competitors to hit the ground running in the next phase of their education.

Time management is essential

This may be the most significant learning curve for freshmen in college. For the first time, you are on your own to make your own decisions and manage your schedule without someone else there to hold your hand the whole time. Planning classes, study sessions, extracurriculars, time with friends, and somehow finding time to fit in at least two meals a day is a lot to take on.

However, planning out classes, and a schedule to longe, ride, practice showmanship, eat, and sleep during horse shows will have any equestrian prepared to manage their daily activities when they are away at school. Time management skills are not the first thing that most people would directly correlate to showing horses, but they are a lesson that we subconsciously learn along the way.

8 A.M. classes have NOTHING on horse show mornings

Waking up at four in the morning to get ready for showmanship on a Saturday does not sound too appealing to most people. Who wants to wake up before the sunrise on the weekend? Well, we do.

We might not all necessarily enjoy waking up that early, but at the very least, we are not unfamiliar with having to get up early to work. That 8 A.M. statistics class is probably not as fun as showing first thing in the morning, but it’s the routine of waking up early that counts.

Having the discipline to get yourself out of bed is an invaluable skill in college. As badly as you might want to skip that first class every Monday, look at it this way…waking up at seven has nothing on waking up at four.

Attention to detail is a necessity

We should all own up to it on this one – showing horses has made us into a group of perfectionists. The attention to detail required to nail that horsemanship pattern or get your distance just right in your trail pattern translates easily to your papers and chemistry labs.

You will come to find that being a perfectionist is a significant win when you go to college. When your classmates might turn in a very rough draft, yours will be closer to the final copy, and you will make less work for yourself in the long run.

This trait can be a double-edged sword if you let it, though. Being a perfectionist is great in college until it’s not. Remember not to take yourself too seriously. As much as college is about getting good grades and learning in the classroom, it is also about meeting new people and making all kinds of fun memories. One sub-par paper or grade you aren’t happy with won’t stop you from graduating. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Being an active person keeps your stress levels to a minimum

Whether it is actually riding, cleaning stalls, or just going to the gym to keep yourself physically fit for showing, showing horses in some way keeps us active. Going into college, having some physical activity built into your routine is already extremely important.

Taking some time every day to get up away from your desk to go for a walk, run, or spend some time at the campus gym will work wonders for your mental health. Being physically active will keep you motivated and alleviate your stress throughout those first few weeks of class significantly.

And for what it’s worth, it never hurts to work off all of the monster cookies and milkshakes you’re bound to order from the dining hall during movie nights with your friends.

Equestrians are no strangers to constructive criticism

Feedback from college professors can be a rude awakening for some students that were used to coasting through classes in high school. The classes get more stringent, and the demands seem to rise through the roof almost instantly in college; it is one of the most intimidating adjustments for a student to face.

Luckily for those students who have spent any significant amount of time in the arena, constructive criticism is expected. The hours we spend with trainers critiquing details about our riding – down to the angle of our thumb in horsemanship – prepares us for the first time a professor asks us to “be more clear here” or “reword this section – it is rather confusing.”

If we’ve willingly subjected ourselves to this kind of judgment for years in the show pen, having our professors judge our work is no big deal.

Bonus: We’ve learned to appreciate the powers of a good cup of coffee, and we’re not afraid of communal showers

Long nights studying are a part of college life just as much as night-riding is a part of the Congress every fall. And just like that cup of coffee is a lifesaver when you wake up the morning after a night-ride, it will be a lifesaver before those early classes.

Pro-tip: black coffee is cheaper in the dining halls than an iced cappuccino, so if you’ve already learned to love a nice cup of black coffee on a horse show morning, even better.

And lastly, communal showers. They are not fun. At all. Never fear, though, because, for those competitors who camp in their trailers at horse shows, they are nothing new. And quite honestly, they cannot get much worse than the bathrooms at some of the fairgrounds we show at which look like they haven’t seen a good cleaning in a while.

College will probably seem like a brand-new world when you move in. There are lots of new experiences to adjust to and take in, and it may get overwhelming sometimes. The best thing to do is embrace every challenge and lean on those lessons horses have taught you. If you can take what you’ve learned from the show pen and transfer it over to academics, the transition will be a breeze.

About the Author – Kassidy Lammers is a freshman at the University of Dayton studying history. She has been showing Quarter Horses for eight years, and currently shows her geldings Smooth After Midnite and KM Best Man in the all-around events.