It’s My Life – Chapter 8

Freshman orientation was a weekend for incoming students to learn about the college campus, meet other students, and take part in fun traditions. It allowed us to mingle and potentially find someone we thought might be a good roommate. By the end of the weekend, I had found a girl who seemed to be just as horse crazy as I was and we planned to be roommates. Fun fact: Twenty-one years later, that freshman roommate and I are still best friends and continue to share a passion for horses.

I was going to major in Equestrian Studies. What was I going to do with that degree? I had no idea, but I wanted to be in the equine industry. I signed up for a dual-track which included teaching and stable management. I looked forward to those equine classes and even more so to the riding lessons. We had lessons twice a week! Horses, horses, horses!

In order to determine what riding class you would be placed in, the school held a riding assessment. Groups of students rode horses they had never been on before and were evaluated on the flat, without stirrups, and over fences. The divisions to be placed in were Beginner, Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Specialization. At the young age of 17, I thought I was an amazing rider and would surely be placed in the Advanced classes.

My ego took a hit when I saw I had been placed in the Novice classes. I had hardly any jumping experience and the classes were based on overall skill level. I thought that I was a more talented rider than where I had been placed, but such was the reality. How many times in life have we all thought we were better than what we were, only to be humbly tossed in the dirt? It happens.

Within each riding division were multiple classes like Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2, and Intermediate 3. At the end of each semester, your instructor recommended which class you were to be placed in the next semester. If they thought you showed remarkable improvement, you could skip classes or even divisions. Otherwise, you continued to take all the classes within that division.

I was really bad at jumping, like close your eyes and pray bad. At the rate I was going, I may never even reach an Advanced class before graduation! I could only dream of being good enough to ride in the specialization classes that were dedicated solely to a specific discipline like Dressage or Eventing. I wanted to get better but other than showing up for my lessons and having a random pity party, I wasn’t sure how to progress faster. Note, pity parties don’t make you a better rider, but I sure had them!

My love for dressage began when I joined the dressage team. Believe it or not, I had to be convinced to join. I was not on board for another time commitment. I was working plus taking a full class load. I don’t remember what made my final decision, but I’m so glad I tried out. I now had a third day to ride and I discovered I really liked dressage! Our team even traveled to other colleges to compete in dressage shows.

We had so much fun on those team trips. Showing had always made me nervous (and still does!), but this was about the entire experience. Road trips, early mornings, and team spirit were all included. We had opportunities to ride really nice horses and visit colleges that some of us had applied to. While it was exciting to win a blue ribbon that wasn’t always the outcome. Many riders at these schools were really good and so were the horses they practiced on. We learned to be humble and appreciate our individual journey as well as our teammates’.

It was now our turn to host a show. The Director of Equestrian Studies and instructor of the Specialized Dressage class was there to observe. I rode my test and came back to the arena to finish supporting my teammates. As I was watching the other riders, she approached to congratulate me on my test. She was complimentary of my riding and noted the positive difference I had made in the horse compared to the previous rider. She then asked me if I would like to move over to the Specialized Dressage class. I was stunned, excited, and relieved to finally be focusing my riding on what I loved! I was so honored to be recognized and obviously accepted her offer.

I stayed in that specialized dressage class for the remainder of my time at college. I loved the sport and I loved the horses. While I was not the best rider of my class, I strived to keep learning and dreamed of the day when I could have my own dressage horse.

The infamous day where minutes later I was catapulted in the air and dislocated my elbow.

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