Transitioning to College Life

Hi Everyone!

Credit: Culling Innovations Photography Calais and I the summer before my freshman year of college.

I’ve gone back and forth quite a bit about what to talk about in this first “real” blog post. Considering I have so much I want to share, it’s been a little difficult to decide. For now, I’m going to reminisce a little about what my transition to college was like, and how being involved with horses made it all the better.

My grade school years were FILLED with horses. I began taking lessons at age eight after incessantly begging my mom to let me “wide howses” (imagine this being said in the cutest little girl voice possible). From that point on, I rode as much as I could, took regular lessons, got my first horse, and went to countless shows.

I drew pictures of horses and not much else, did as many school reports as I could on them, and read the entire Heartland series repeatedly. Tell me I’m not alone on that one.

 Horses quickly became ingrained in my everyday routine. Even when I couldn’t ride during the week, I spent peaceful hours with my horse Calais after school. I could see her whenever I needed some quiet time or a fuzzy neck to hug and bury my face in.

I remember visiting my school for their premiere weekend during my senior year of high school, and it finally set in that my life was about to change pretty drastically. The other schools I applied to were five and ten hours driving distance, with my current school four hours away. Not exactly walking distance. 

Meeting Phillip Dutton at Rolex 2015 with the Eventing Team

I wouldn’t get to see my horse everyday anymore. My family wouldn’t be there to laugh with after a long day of classes. I’d have to make new friends and learn my surroundings all over again. For the generally shy and quiet girl I was then, it was a scary thought at first. But the promise that I would be able to be on a riding team while away at school and meet plenty of other horse people was exciting to me, and that excitement overcame the fear.

Watching the equestrian demonstrations in their HUGE indoor arena for premiere weekend tipped my excitement over the edge. Each riding team prepared their own demonstration, and I was captivated watching the dressage team. I knew while being in that environment that I had to be a part of the team and community. It was unique. It wasn’t an overwhelming size. It was charming with all of its traditions, history, and architecture. The major I would be pursuing sounded like it had been made just for me. I knew my decision had already been made.

Moving away to school was a big deal for me. I was incredibly excited to try out for the dressage team, be in riding lessons, and run on my schools cross-country team (which I was very passionate about at the time). BUT of course I had some doubts about whether or not I would make friends, how I would adjust, and my capabilities in general. I’m human. We’re all human. It’s part of the process! But do your best not to doubt yourself.

I did develop some great friendships pretty quickly my first year that have only grown stronger since. Having that common ground of horses and riding right off the bat made starting conversations and relationships with my new peers easier, and most of my friends at school even now are equestrians. I was also able to be part of the athletic community while running cross country. 

Halloween party fun last fall

That being said, don’t keep your “group” exclusive. A couple of the best friendships I have acquired here were completely unexpected and not centered around horses. College is about growing yourself, doing new things, and meeting new people. Even if you think you are sure about who you will be after graduation, you WILL inevitably change, sometimes in a fairly short period of time. 

Going away to school is a big change, but embrace it! It is scary, but great things don’t usually happen when you stay in your comfort zone, as I have learned. Don’t get me wrong, my transition into college was far from a breeze. I was homesick quite often that first year, but having the barn in the middle of campus and riding as an outlet to get my mind off things helped me tremendously.

Becoming part of the dressage team was probably my favorite part of freshman year. I made the team as a riding member and have competed in Interscholastic Dressage Association (IDA) shows, ridden in regular practices, and helped fund-raise. Put blood, sweat, and tears into hand-making batch after batch of infamous fudge for our holiday fundraiser. Well, maybe just a whole lot of elbow grease.

Bottom line: getting involved in activities you’re interested in in college is essential to getting that full experience. If you’re an equestrian, that means horse activities. Of some sort. Even if your school doesn’t have equestrian teams, find some people with common interests. If you are passionate about horses and riding and college, don’t give up on that! I promise you won’t regret it.

Check back next week to hear all about some of my favorite equestrian products for fall time!

Until next time!

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