I’d say that University is a big leap. Not as big as The Cottesmore Leap, for sure, but a big one nonetheless. I am starting my first year of an honours program Equine Bio-Resource Management, and honestly could not be more excited – going to school every day to learn about horse stuff for hours? Count me in! And while I think it’s impossible for anyone to be completely prepared for their first year of University, I’m confident that having horses have been some of the best profs out there to teach the lessons needed to be prepared for this new step. Here are some of the priceless lessons I’ve learned while growing up with horses.

1 – Work Ethic: Having my own farm and being responsible for the care of horses and upkeep of facilities has been essential in developing a solid work ethic. If I don’t get up to do the horses, nobody else is going to, and that’s just the same with working hard at school. You can’t depend on other people to do all the work for you and still expect to be successful.  

2 – Manure Mistakes Happen:  There are so many things I’ve learned while developing my OTTB (and convincing him he really isn’t a racehorse anymore), and one major one is that things will not always go your way, and that you cannot be perfect all the time. My guy is a difficult ride, so if I’m not riding my best things can go awry, but I’ve developed the patience with both him and myself to regroup, and try again. This approach has taught me to keep a level head and reassess what went wrong, so we can correct it the second time. This reflection period could come in handy should I (knock on wood) run into any bumps academically.

3- Consistency:  Horses learn by association, so when training them it is very important to be consistent. Being consistent in school has helped me develop a routine, as well as making sure I work hard consistently every day for every class, rather than working hard for a day and slacking off for the rest of the week.

4- Planning Ahead:  In the Pony Club manual, it preaches states ‘safety around the stable requires knowledge, responsibility and planning’, and I think it is safe to assume that those three things, combined with hard work, also lead to success. Not only that, but between organizing what to bring to events, and planning a conditioning schedule specific to each horse, us horse people know how to plan. Organizin’ is in our blood, baby.

5- Relax and Enjoy the Ride: Easier said than done, but the funny thing about worrying over something is then you suffer twice – before it happens, and maybe even during. Being able to relax into what’s going on around you allows you to enjoy it. Your event horse probably doesn’t know he’s going to go in a 2000$ jumper jackpot the next day, so he enjoys his day outside with his friends.  Same thing goes with school, pay attention to what’s going on around you, but focus on one day at a time will make everything seem less overwhelming.

6 – Prioritize what’s important and what you need, not what you want: I made the decision to commute so that I’ll be able to continue taking care of our horses at our farm, and keep riding consistently. Since there are only so many hours in a day, prioritizing my time and energy has become paramount in keeping on top of my school work, while also doing my barn chores and keeping Honor in work. Sacrificing social outings with friends, new and old, is a hard decision but one that puts what needs to be done in order to continue to have time to do what I love, while learning about what I love.

Now, three weeks in, I’m still loving University, and have been able to stay on top of my school work while keeping up with my chores and riding on my regular schedule. I’m probably one of the only first years bright eyed and beaming at 7:30 in the morning when I have early labs though. I only expect the workload to increase, university’s a wild ride – but luckily I’ve got full seat breeches.

Written by HJU Blogger Contestant Isabelle D’Costa