Chances are, you’ve heard of the seemingly age-old dilemma: should young equestrians continue riding while in college?
It’s certainly difficult to think about balancing riding, academics, and a healthy social life. However, there are a number of options available to maintain this balance— namely, the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program.
Intercollegiate Eventing has been an official program of the USEA since 2014 and has grown significantly over the years. The inaugural Intercollegiate Eventing Championships in 2016 saw 10 teams from 10 schools competing while the 2022 Championships hosted 22 teams from 12 schools.
“Originally proposed with input from the Intercollegiate Eventing League, the program was established to provide a framework on which eventing teams and individual competitors could flourish at universities and colleges across the country.” – United States Eventing Association
To learn more about how this program supports and benefits young equestrian athletes, Ride iQ spoke with several participants from Auburn University and the University of Kentucky.
Q: How has being on an intercollegiate team influenced your overall college experience?
Katelyn Finch, Auburn Eventing: The Auburn Eventing Team helps me continue to love the sport and grow in the world of eventing. There is so much encouragement from both the team and my barn. It has provided me with a way to represent Auburn on a national level while just having fun with my horse.
Without an intercollegiate team, continuing to be active in the sport in college would have been difficult. When you get to college, there are girls going through the same challenging things as you are. The team supports you and encourages you to keep pushing on.
Madeleine Richards, UK Eventing: It has given me some of my greatest memories during my time in college. Being able to continue to ride and compete in college was important to me. I did not realize how much fun it would be, especially at the Intercollegiate Championships. Cheering on your teammates during competition is so much fun, and it makes you value the sport so much more.
Q: How do you balance classes, social activities, and riding?
Hannah Warner, UK Eventing: My situation is a bit unusual from a typical college student–I am completing my degree online, which is allowing me to work full time at one of the big eventing barns in Lexington!
I have color-coordinated calendars and lists everywhere to help me stay organized. This helps me to not miss any deadlines with school or with the eventing team at the University of Kentucky.
The thing I have sacrificed the most with my schedule is definitely sleep with trying to get late-night exams and assignments completed!
Jennifer Mulholland, Auburn Eventing: Balancing riding and college takes a lot of time management. Usually, at the start of the semester, I look at my class schedule and decide what time each day works best to go to the barn and ride. From there, I try to get to the barn between 3 and 5 days a week. This depends on how much schoolwork I have for the week. If you miss a day of classes for a competition, working ahead is critical so that you don’t fall behind.
At the end of the day, you have to remember that you are ultimately at school for academics– if you have a really test-heavy week, it is okay to skip out on going to the barn. I try to plan my horse’s downtime in the season around midterm and finals week. This way, I don’t feel guilty about missing riding those days.
Q: Do you have any advice for people interested in joining an intercollegiate team?
AK Waller, Auburn Eventing: Just enjoy yourself and get to know people! Being on a team is such an incredible feeling, and nothing is more important than the friendships you form with your teammates. The competitions are great, but do not let them get too overwhelming. Having fun is the most important thing! Your team will support you not only through horses, but all areas of life.
At the end of the day, we are all horse-crazy girls trying to get a degree!
Hannah Warner, UK Eventing: Just do it!! Put yourself out there, be awkward, and talk to people. Go to all the meetings, fundraisers, and team activities. Volunteer at events with the team and take pride in your school!
A lot of the eventing teams offer a variety of educational activities to their members as well. Take advantage of all of these and use the chance to introduce yourself to the big riders and people in the horse industry!
Madeleine Richards, UK Eventing: I encourage everyone to join whether you are actively competing or not! It is a great way to meet new friends. Intercollegiate competitions are some of the most fun experiences in college!
Q: What is your favorite part about being on an intercollegiate team?
Katelyn Finch, Auburn Eventing: The best part about being on an intercollegiate team is the community you get with it. Typically, before coming to college, you don’t have much of a team experience. At Auburn, I run into someone that is on our team anytime I am on campus. If you need help with something, the team is there for you. Intercollegiate Championships is the most magical experience because there is cheering and school pride everywhere.
Jennifer Mulholland, Auburn Eventing: I love having a group of girls that have the same interests as me and understand the struggle between balancing college and riding. It is super fun to be able to represent your school at team challenges and to feel like you are bringing recognition to the program.
AK Waller, Auburn Eventing: Coming into the team as a freshman, I was excited to start competing and representing the team. Unfortunately, early in the school year my horse experienced a career-ending injury and I didn’t get to compete.
Through all of this, my teammates were there for me and supported me during the tough times. They continue to do so even after I got a new horse and hit a bit of a mental block regarding riding. The team has introduced me to some of my best friends, and it’s so nice to have a group of people with the same interests as me.
Interested in riding in college?
Whether you are starting your collegiate journey soon or you are already a student, USEA’s Intercollegiate Eventing Program has opportunities for you. Intercollegiate Eventing provides a valuable support system whether you’re actively competing or not!
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