Hello! My name is Danielle Keating.

I am an undergraduate student studying in central Ohio where I am pursuing a double major in Equine Pre-Veterinary Science and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. I am a member of a handful of scientific and honors societies, the co-president of the Animal Health Science Club, the president of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) team, am writing and publishing (hopefully!) an honors thesis, and live at the university’s equine center. I’m smack in the middle of my veterinary school applications and interviews.

Oh, and I have a horse, too.

She’s a pretty cool little thing, to say the least. I rescued The Black Mare 2 years ago, re-trained her and together we have discovered her true niche: jumpers. At a stout 14.3hh, she is just barely too big to ever be a pony jumper superstar; but her ‘big-horse’ attitude makes up for what she lacks in height. We’ve got some big plans for the upcoming show season—my last before completing my undergraduate career.

By this point, most people have a few questions for me.

“How do you manage it all? How do you afford a horse in college? Do you have a job?”

Yes. I have 4, actually—I live and work at the equine center; so I not only work there on evening shifts, but I do night check also. I teaching assist for the freshmen level equine classes. I work at an outside barn, about 20 minutes away from campus. And I have recently added a retail job. This doesn’t include my part time commissions as a crafter and artist, making portraits, painted wine glasses, and a hodge-podge of other things.

This are usually followed by some half-hearted joke; ‘How do you fit it all in? Do you even sleep?’

You can find me, 6-7 nights a week, working. That is usually after a day full of biochemistry or genetics, animal nutrition, labs, and other classwork. I change into work clothes and spend my spare time cleaning stalls, grading papers, and working retail. I come back and do homework until night check. I manage to find time to ride my own horse 2 days a week because of scheduled lesson times. The rest of the week I get up with the sun to ride, squeeze in a ride in between classes, or stay up late to get my rides in (Thank god for indoors!).

Of course, classwork comes first—so if I have a big exam or project, my horse might end up with an extra day off…I am here to get an education first.

My weekends give me a chance to catch up on school work, but also to pick up extra hours working. And a little more leeway with when I can ride my horse.

Are you exhausted yet reading this? Because I am.

At this point, I have a question for myself: “Why am I doing this?

Why am I busting my butt every day, on top of a rigorous class schedule, working a mish-mash of jobs to pay for an animal and a sport that is deemed one of the most expensive pastimes out there?

One of my jobs pays my expenses. The other three go to my horse: her board (which is twice as much as my rent), her farrier and vet bills, her equipment, her lessons, her shows.

I think it’s a sensation that only ‘horse people’ truly understand, because logically, it really doesn’t make sense. I do it because I can walk out my front door and see my horse, any time of the day.

Because I can walk back in the barn, and hear her nicker when she sees me.

Because when other things aren’t going so hot, my horse is something that I’ve done right.

Because when I get stressed out, I can walk out my door, go to my horse, and see her.

I don’t even need to ride, just to see her—listen to her eating, grazing…smell her warm, horsey-hay smell…feel her ever-constant nuzzling for treats. She is there to listen when I need a set of ears who could never judge me. But I am not cramming my days full so my horse can be my emotional sandbox where I can bury all my problems.

I bust my butt for her because she does the same for me.

I work hard to make sure she has everything she needs to be successful—she relies on me for everything, I’m obligated to provide the best I can for her.

And in return, she comes out every day ready to work and to give that back to me.

To try, even when she doesn’t understand what I want.

To excel when she does ‘get it’.

To learn.

To surprise me, to give me a sense of pride, to give me a sense of accomplishment, to give me a sense of teamwork.

How could I not want to try my hardest for her when she does the same for me?

“How do you manage it all?”

The best I can. Which, admittedly, is better some days than others.

The long days of juggling jobs, grades, horses, clubs, projects, research…it can get a bit much. I’ve learned that the world’s best time manager still couldn’t get everything I need to get done on some days. Sometimes I work as much as I can, and it’s still not enough to cover all her expenses. So then I work some more, scrounge and save and do it all over again.

But I do it for the little mare in the back whose world revolves around me. And that much I don’t think I’ll ever regret.

I am excited to have the potential to share the crazy adventures of a horse-poor, broke college kid and her horse on a budget who are doing their best to prove something to the world.