Balancing School with Riding

Article written by: Marina Samad

What many of us forget is that receiving an education is a privilege. There are millions of people worldwide who will never receive such an opportunity; therefore, it is important to take a minute to put everything we have into perspective. Having the ability to attend school, to have horses, to compete, to have food on the table, all of that is something that we have to remember to be grateful each day. After taking all of that into consideration, it is okay to have an occasional vent about a common burden in the equine world, which is school.

I was fortunate enough to attend a lovely prep school in Pittsburgh. While it tried to guilt me about my riding schedule, which included skipping mandatory assemblies and Friday classes after 12;15 pm for lessons or showing, the teachers and deans usually understood that whether or not they liked it, I was still going to leave anyways. So leave I did, and there is definitely something to be said for my organization in terms of managing to get my work done between hurry up and waiting at the horse show and trying not to fall face flat into my dinner plate. I enjoyed having an argument with my teachers along the lines of, “if the football team can miss three days of school for playoffs, why can’t I miss three hours to leave for a horse show?” They would mumble under their breaths knowing that they had lost the battle, and I would triumphantly walk to my car trying to find a place for my backpack in between all of my bags which mostly contained road trip snacks.

While the high school- riding journey was bumpy, college was another experience to come. Thinking I was going to take a brief riding hiatus after high school, I had planned on attending a small liberal arts school about four hours from my house, in the middle of nowhere. The hiatus never actually happened. My dad bought me my junior jumper the day before I was supposed to leave for school, which would thus allow me to show her as an amateur in the coming horse shows. I was thrilled and incredibly grateful, but also aware of the time commitment it would be commuting back and forth from school to the barn. As a freshman, I wasn’t allowed to be too picky about my schedule, so my last class did not end until 4:30 pm on a Friday. The registrar did not care about my riding. To him, I was just another member of the freshman class trying to get out of Friday classes. Thanks, school.

Come the middle of my first semester, I realized that this arrangement was not going to work. I couldn’t do the four hour drive each way Friday and Sunday to ride. I wasn’t particularly fond of my school, so I opted to transfer to the University of Pittsburgh, which was bigger and allowed for more scheduling flexibility. I transferred that same year, which ended up introducing me to a new way of learning. This involved the world of online classes.

I had never taken online classes before, although I was fortunate that my prep school had taught me good time management. I took four classes so I could stay in Wellington instead of commuting back and forth. Visions ran through my head of not really having to do anything, and I was loving the prospect of just sending in work at the last minute. However, I was really, really WRONG. I had absolutely no idea how much work they could be. I was taking the same curriculum as the students who physically attended school were, just online and without a real teacher. It was a lot. I would ride all day, and then head to Panera with a friend who was in the same boat and attempt at least three hours of homework a night, excluding snack breaks every twenty minutes. That was excluding the time I needed to travel to Palm Beach State College for supervised exams, and the study time needed for them. This occurred for my whole spring semester. Nonetheless, I made it, but was just pleasantly surprised at the amount of work it was. Not complaining, but you get my point. Anything is better than being at school, but the struggle certainly doesn’t end with doing it all on the computer.

In a matter of time, the fall blew in, and I had planned on physically attending school to get more classes done. The work doubled then, because during those months, my jumper Capri left the Caristos farm to come home with me while I got my academia on. My farm by school is an hour and a half away, so with city traffic, it made for a long day. As frustrating as this time was, it taught me to become even more time efficient. I learned to make every minute of school and free time count to do work and meet with teachers, which in turn, made me more relaxed when I finally got to go ride. I felt like an after school kid again, rolling into the barn at 5:30 waiting to get tacked up for my lesson.

Why am I sharing all of this? What I’m trying to say is the key to riding in school is all about finding a balance. A lot of students are in the same boat; we think teachers just don’t get it, and that school is just a burden. But really, there is a bigger picture. This spring, I took the semester off so I could stay in Florida, but had to sacrifice six weeks of the summers starting May 12th to take a semester load of summer classes (which, as we speak, have two weeks left). I made up for my lost time in Florida, though, while actually having an internship while at the horse show. We all like to complain about the face in the dinner plate feeling when it comes to doing both, but school is an absolutely necessary part to life. It helps build up social and academic skills, which is something else we often take for granted. It may take some trial and error, but just find away to do school that works for you and your horses. If it require staking some time off like me, then so be it. Beggars can’t be choosers, and chances are, your horses will be much happier if you end up wit a job that can support them than one that can’t.

Article written by: Marina Samad