By Rebecca Barber

Big surprise: My college admissions essay was about horses. I am a “barn rat,” which by any interpretation of the definition, means I spent the vast majority of my childhood with horses. I was “that” girl — the first person in the barn and the last one to leave, the girl who would beg to set jumps so that she could watch lessons, the student who would implore the trainer for as many rides as possible. Yes, I was that girl. What I did not realize at the time was how the lessons I learned in the barn would help me in college and beyond. Here’s how.

Time Management: How many college freshmen can honestly say that on registration day they immediately pressed “select” to enroll in an 8 a.m. course? Not many, but I would bet money that the majority of those who do are equestrians. Having worked in a barn throughout high school, I entered college prepared for early mornings and late nights. I knew how to structure and prioritize my week in order to accomplish everything on my to-do list. Whether it meant locking myself in the library all day on Monday in order to have the remainder of the week free to ride, or studying in the tack room while I waited for my horse to dry post-ride, I was prepared and able to do it all. A benefit of having served as a working student prior to college, I was already experienced at making lists and maintaining a detailed daily planner — skills which, believe it or not, are often quite foreign to many college freshmen.

Interpersonal Skills: When working in a barn, it’s typical to have to interact not only with the boss, but also other staff members, contractors (such as farrier and vet), owners, clients, and often sponsors. Growing up in a barn you learn how to tactfully and politely assist and converse with people (often older) of various backgrounds and with differing needs. The ability to problem solve and discuss potential options with various individuals served me well in college where it was often necessary to meet with professors, and later with potential employers.

Perseverance: Anyone who works in a barn knows life with horses can be an emotional rollercoaster. Life doesn’t always appear fair. One can diligently work all season in order to qualify for a big championship class, and then have to scratch because the horse pulls a shoe and steps on a clip. Things happen and, as horse people, we become quite talented at picking up the broken pieces and continuing on to plan B. The same goes for college. There might be a professor who despises your writing style, or you might accidently not prepare fully for an exam. These things happen and all you can do is try harder on the next attempt. Many freshmen struggle to regain their composure after such setbacks but as riders, we are extremely skilled at falling off our horse and getting right back on.

The lessons I learned in the barn have and continue to benefit me in the horse world, in academia, and in the corporate realm.” Horses truly are some of the best teachers.