While I had received scholarships to assist with my college tuition, the majority of my financial aid was through student loans. In my college prep track, student loans were brushed off as a means to an end. The debt, the length of time you might potentially be paying on them, and options to pay them back were not the focus. “College for all!” was the motto. And I chose to go to an all-girls private college. I was not thinking of the cost, I was thinking of the horses!
You can imagine my surprise when I discovered my monthly student loan payment was going to be $400 per month. Excuse me? Where was I when the speech was given about this ridiculous situation I was now in? Congratulations! You have made it successfully through four years of college. Here is what you owe. You cannot get out of paying student loans. Many scenarios, including your death, were discussed in this “exit interview”. Talk about intimidating. Yikes!
Obviously, I could not make that $400 payment and live on my own. I chose to move the loan to another education loan company and significantly extend the terms. This got my payment down to a more affordable amount and the rate was reasonable. I was discouraged that I might be paying on them for the next 15-20 years but this was my situation.
With rent, car payments, groceries and all the things that come with being on your own, having a horse, or affording riding lessons were not in my immediate future. However, I was used to working hard for what I wanted and learned to be resourceful. My dream of horse ownership would have to wait but I could still have horses in my life. The opportunity to ride was still available if I wanted it. It may not be on my own horse, but I knew of a few that might need a rider.
The Equestrian Center at the college I had just graduated from, and was now in debt to for what felt like the rest of my life, had about 70 horses. Many of which were not being ridden during the summer months. There was not enough staff to keep all the horses in work and I was willing to show up for free. It was a win for everyone. Although the horses that needed to be ridden were always the ones with issues, I was eager to ride whatever I could.
One of the horses that came to the college was a pretty little chestnut quarter horse mare named Baby Doll. She had previously been sent to a western horsemanship clinician to be started and had been kicked out of their program for bad behavior. Her bloodlines were good, but she had no interest in the job that had been chosen for her. I’m not sure how she ended up as a potential lesson horse at the college but nonetheless here she was. She quickly outsmarted her riders and was becoming a problem in lessons, so I took her on as a project.
The little mare was fun to ride but challenging. I was having decent success but she was still causing issues in lessons. Students would ask me, “How do you get her to move?” as she would just plant her feet and refuse to go anywhere. She would challenge just about every rider and was just too smart for a lesson program. Riding the red-headed mare was a lot about compromise. She was only going to work for you if she wanted to.
After spending a few months with her, the barn manager approached me with the news that Baby Doll was unable to fulfill her duty as a lesson horse and would be returned to her owners. I was invested in her progress and suggested a half lease to me to help cover some of her expenses. The temporary agreement was made and I was hopeful that I could help her enough to stay.
To be continued…
Me and the little red chestnut mare!
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