This post is a dedicated to my high school-age followers. And to everyone else, remember, it’s never too late!
So, you rode in high school. If you were anything like me, you didn’t just ride…. you also showed regularly, were at the barn constantly, had big dreams of the Grand Prix ring, and were willing to do anything to keep riding.
Growing up, I would do anything for a ride. Which is why I was happy to be a working student and groom. I was willing to pour my entire life into riding. I saw the Grand Prix ring as the only goal. If you’ve read my post “The Horse that Built Me” you know why that dream was unrealistic.
As my senior year came to an end, my riding career was sputtering. It was time for me to go to college but I did not want to ride NCAA. I wanted to ride privately but that idea did not seem feasible.
College was expensive enough without horse show bills and lessons to pay for. I thought my dreams of riding were done for, so I accepted a generous offer to attend Colorado State University on an academic scholarship. I thought hanging up my saddle and taking a break from riding would do me good.
That lasted two weeks.
My ability to step away from the ring lasted two weeks before it started eating me alive. I looked back on the past thirteen years of my life, all spent showing, and I couldn’t believe the mistake I’d made. I not only gave up riding competitively, I selected a college in a location where opportunities for competitive show jumping were limited.
I had let the notion that showing and riding privately was “impossible”, stop me.
If anyone should know about achieving the impossible, it should have been me.
But, I had given up.
I think this contributed to my general unhappiness through much of my time at CSU. Not because I didn’t have good friends or opportunities to have a great college experience but because I’d naively given up the very thing that made me who I am.
I thought that playing on the polo team and riding for fun would help me move on.
When I visited my mom in November and got to ride my horses and her clients’ horses, I realized I hadn’t lost my stride or my determination to compete in the Grand Prix ring.
It was then and there that I decided not to give up on my dream. I could not give up. I had way too much left to say in the ring just to walk away into a life of trail rides and hacks.
College was inevitable. But, so was my riding career. I just had to figure out how to achieve both.
Despite being discouraged against riding competitively in college, I knew there had to be a way. So, I looked at my options. I could fly back and forth from California, living half my life here and half my life there. Or I could transfer to a California school and ride full-time.
The choice was obvious: Go to school in California.
As much as I adore my friends in Colorado, I knew I would never be completely happy if I wasn’t riding.
It was simply too stressful, expensive, and physically exhausting to be flying back and forth like I did during HITS Thermal. I also could not devote my whole self to being the best rider I possibly could be. And, if you know me at all, you know I do not half-ass anything. I was in my comfort zone at CSU and I needed a new challenge.
So, I have decided to transfer to the University of San Diego. I was accepted in April and will begin classes for the Fall Semester. Today was my last academic day at CSU.
I will train in San Diego, be close to Showpark, Del Mar, the Oaks, and Thermal, and be in an excellent program. No doubt, I am going to school in San Diego, to accommodate my riding career but I know I will be able to grow and achieve so much outside my riding career.
I am following my dreams all the way back to California, the one place I SWORE passionately I would never return to. The things we do for horses!
I am absolutely terrified. USD is expensive and far from all my friends. I am taking a big risk in moving there to pursue a career in a sport that, as we all know, is less than reliable. But, it is worth it to me. I have spent my whole life working to achieve an opportunity like this and I truly believe I will live to regret it if I do not take this risk.
So, in a week, I will be packing up my things and my dog and driving out to Southern California.
My message to all my high school followers, ESPECIALLY those seniors that are watching with terror as their years as a junior come to a close and “amateur-dom” looms closer, if you want to ride in college but don’t want to do NCAA, it is possible. Find a barn near the schools you are looking at/have been accepted to.
Even if your parents cannot afford college plus horses, you would be amazed at how many barns will hire you as a working student. Being a good working student can lead to more opportunities than riding your personal horse. The key is work ethic and resilience. Find a barn, present yourself, then be the best working student you can be and you will still have a shot in this sport.
The worst thing you can do is give up because something seems impossible or the risk seems too great. With great risk, comes great reward.
The moral of this story is college is not the killer of equestrian dreams. It is an opportunity for a fresh start in the horse world. Don’t let the status quo of “become an amateur and die” keep you from pursuing your dreams.
See you in the Grand Prix ring (;