Disclaimer* I know this is my 500th post about things like this. I've gone from trainer, to equestrian college, to farrier, and clearly I don't really know what to do with my life yet. Don't be mad at me, I'm 17 and I'm allowed to not know what to do...but my deadline is coming up awful quickly because admission deadlines are creeping up on me. Yes, the chronicle forums are where I constantly go with these questions because I don't have too many people to talk to about things like these. I'm sorry, but it helps me get some perspective.
So, my real question is...for all of you who have done it...how do you balance school and horses? I have been thinking along the lines of finding a job near college, or finding a college near a job, and keeping up with riding during college. How rigorous is my school work going to be, on average? I'm an honors student and I'm finding that this year the school work has been a little bit too much (too much demanded of me outside of school) and I'm falling a bit behind. But, my high school requires a 3.5 gpa or above for honors, and these classes are very extensive. Plus I have five honors classes I'm taking at once. Is college going to be worse, better, or about the same?
I'm thinking of taking a gap year between high school and college. No decisions are made and I'm still planning to apply to quite a few schools, but I'm hoping this year will help me decide on farrier school, a liberal arts college, an internship program, or really just what I want to do. I'm graduating high school this may and I'm hoping to do some internships and possibly go abroad.
How did you guys do with college? Have you found that horses have taken a back seat to the work, and you have found yourself working at something you don't love very much? That's my biggest fear, compromising on my future. How did you balance school and horses? Have you found a way to help them meet in the middle as a career?
I didn't find balancing things to be all that hard, to be honest, in undergrad or law school. It's all about time management and making priorities.
I also took all honors courses in high school and then was in the honors program in college. I found the workload to be about equal although in college you chose your classes so could spread things out some (not taking 2 science classes with labs in the same semester, etc.) You had to be more of a self starter but the work is the same. I have no experience with farrier school.
In undergrad, I would schedule my classes for 8am, 9am, 10am, and 11am. Then I'd go to lunch. Come home, and work on homework/debate stuff until 3/4pm. Then some nights I'd go ride (dependent on other people with cars to carpool out for lessons) and other nights I'd do social stuff. On the weekends, I was always at a debate tournament or a horse show during the day. If I was really busy I'd study at night. Otherwise I'd go out. I partied a lot less than most but had plenty of time for a social life. Most of my friends were on the debate team or equestrian team.
Law school was basically the same. I'd get up for classes as early as I could get them, get it done with, do my homework, and then either ride or go to work. I held down a 20-25 hour/week job all 3 years of law school and rode 4-5 days/week. Moot court was my main activity, if it wasn't for that I could have ridden a bit more.
At the end of the day, it's about spending your time wisely. I knew how to study/work/write and I knew I had XYZ hours in the day to do it if I wanted to ride/socialize. So I just sat down and did the work when I could. By taking AM classes, I avoided wasting half the day sleeping like most of my classmates who didn't take classes before 2pm did. Sit down and write your days out in a journal for a week. How long do you REALLY spend studying and how much time are you socializing/on Facebook/watching TV/wasting. You'd be surprised. If you hunker down and focus, there's plenty of time in the day for college, work, and horses.
I'll be honest, it probably isn't the best idea for your growth (imo) to try and force too much ahead of time into college. So I wouldn't necessarily plan on riding initially, or getting a job, if you can go through without one. Instead, look at the schools you're applying to, and check up on their extra-curricular activities. If you choose right, you can go to a school with club-type riding activities that will allow you to socialize, be around horses, and pay less than lessons would cost. Your riding won't necessarily improve (though if you get in with a good group, or one that has a good instructor, it will) but you'll be allowing yourself to take more time for studying, developing new interests, and figuring out what you want to do with your life.
Also look for good equine studies programs attached to good universities - I'm biased, but Texas A&M is a pretty good example of this sort of place, where you have horse-centered clubs (the polo club), equine studies classes, and other excellent programs if you realize you don't want to make your living in the horse world. I don't know what y'all have up there, but maybe look for a similar university? Or just apply to A&M, because all you're out is the application fee if you don't make it.
I kept up with riding through most of college, although I did take off a semester in fall of my junior year to do a study abroad program (an incredible experience) and found that once I returned that the trip had really opened my eyes as to what I wanted to do for a career/other experiences I wanted to have in addition to riding.
I continued to ride a couple of times/week during the rest of my junior/senior year (but not competitively or in lessons, mainly just exercising horses for friends) while my horse was leased to a therapeutic riding program.
I think riding in college is completely do-able, but I think it is important to be open to adjusting your goals and expectations about riding and plan on reevaluating them each year/semester.
I think it depends on your priorities. If you make riding your next priority after school work, you will design your college experience around riding. What I mean by that, is that other activities, such as sports, club activities, and socializing, will fill in after your schoolwork, riding time, and any job or internship you might have. It doesn't mean you can't have a social life or join in other activities, but they won't be consuming your college experience like they do some other students.
I did not ride while I was in school, by choice. I took on a number of internships, jobs, and club activities that were pretty time intensive. I would not have been able to ride with that schedule. Had I chosen to ride, I would not have been so active at school.
I believe you have had lots of advice on earlier threads, the vast majority of which was go to college. And as other posters have said, you have more control of your schedule, so you can fit riding around it each semester. Your education should be your priority if nothing else because it will give you the credentials (hopefully) that are the basis for a career that supports your interest in horses.
You know what, it is perfectly okay not to know what you want to do when going to college. College is where you can identify areas that interest you. And don't be surprised if you end up doing something very different from your major post-college. What you learn in college -- how to think analytically, how to write, how to problem solve, how to work in groups -- is all very handy and transferable in the real world.
Life is not a linear progression for most of us. It tends to weave around a bit. Chill out a bit and let things happen. It's easier that way.
Ahhhh, the balancing act. I know it well! First off let me say, GO TO COLLEGE NOW. Don't take time off (or not too much at least) and don't get the idea that you can just come back to it later. True, you can, but it is SO much harder! I, against my parents' wise advice, decided to get out there in the world and travel and work instead of going to school. I don't regret the traveling, I just wish I had done it over the summer between HS and gone straight into college!
I'm now working full time, caring for a farm with three horses, and riding/competing on my fourth horse who I board... Plus trying to find time to hang out with my SO. Let me tell you - just having school and one horse would be a dream right now! What I've found (and I will admit I'm not wonderful at this) is that it's absolutely critical to make a schedule and stick to it no matter what. Make a calendar or set of calendars and the second the semester starts plot out every class, assignment, and due date. Plan your riding times, chores, and errands around that, then do not deviate. Also, use every spare moment wisely. I do homework over my lunch hour so that I free up time for the horses, the SO, and anything else I need to do.
Go to college, get your undergrad degree. You will never regret that and you will always have it under your belt in case a horsey career doesn't pan out. If you go and get it done you can have a degree in hand by 22. If you're really dedicated and do summer classes too you could even be finished at 21. You will still be plenty young to be a working student or do an apprenticeship if you decide you want to do horses professionally.