My First Month as an Equine Studies Major

Advice from a freshman that’s making it up as she goes

GabunAs I enter my sixth week of college, I hardly recognize myself. Maybe that’s because I am always in need of a shower, or that I’m living in an entirely new state, but I also think that a lot has changed. I moved into my dorm in August and entered what feels like a never ending whirlwind of activities. As the events moved from orientations and syllabus reviews to the nitty-gritty of first year classes, I realized the actual difficulty of a twenty credit course load. I take four classes on Monday and Wednesday, leaving my dorm around 7:45 AM and returning around 7 PM. On Tuesday I have a freshman seminar in the morning and an honors seminar in the afternoon, and lunch time is devoted to meetings and homework. Thursday is devoted to one class (same as Tuesday AM), and then off to the barn for the rest of the weekend, with IHSA practice on Friday mornings and TRAC in the evening, and hacks on Saturday and Sunday.

College actually rocked my world a little bit. I can’t coast by like I did in high school and my usual good-kid charm doesn’t work as well, as nobody knows me here. The barn was a completely different story: I had never, ever trained with a different barn but the one I grew up at, and it was strange being at the bottom of the totem pole, not deserving of trust (completely understandably-I can be caught at numerous times during the day, just standing and trying to figure out how this barn would like me to handle a problem that has arisen). But, I make it up as I go. I started asking around, figuring out what works and doesn’t around the facility. Eventually, I worked up the courage to follow the barn manager around the property, asking what I can do to help. He assigned me relatively simple tasks (hand walks, turnout, assist with feeding), but I was more than shocked when he asked if I wanted to ride a horse that needed exercising. It’s the simple things that not only help you learn the facility, but prove your competence and willingness to learn.

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My advice to any college freshman – who’s probably in the same shoes as I am right now – to get out of their comfort zone and try everything in their major. This not only enriches your education (and gets your money’s worth!) but helps you learn what you actually love to do. For example, I volunteered to follow my care horse (I’ll explain that in my next post!) to a horse show that he would be attending the second week of school. I was shocked to find out that I was the only freshman there-everybody else knew each other and their horse show routine, and I spent the first few hours scrambling to learn and keep up. However, I eventually settled in, and was able to learn and be helpful. The learning curve was steep, but now I’m ready for bigger shows as we move along with the school year. Overall, it was a great learning experience in one of the most hands-on majors any college can offer, plus I made many upperclassmen friends who are always willing to help me out in the barn or around campus. Taking the risk and helping out at the horse show proved really beneficial and I’m quite glad that I went.