Going back to school means a lot of excitement for the upcoming year, but unfortunately for most students, it means that the months of waking up and going straight to the barn are coming to a close. The days of carefree horseplay (if you will) are now limited to weekends, and even still, the grasp of homework constricts your days off. As a student, it can be a huge challenge to balance horsemanship and academics, but there are definitely some ways to alleviate the stress and make sure you’re not spreading yourself too thin.
Of course, for most equestrians, the thought of spending hours at the barn after school sounds much more appealing than spending hours doing homework. Luckily, there’s enough time in the day for both, so your ride time won’t suffer and neither will your grades.
The most important part of balancing your busy lifestyle is communication. Be clear with your trainer about the rigor and demand of being in school, chat with your teachers about your everyday expectations and responsibilities outside of school, and keep your parents in the loop about what’s going on in both of your worlds.
When I was in school, it was very helpful for me to feel like I’d made some progress on my homework before going to the barn. Because it’s important to optimize daylight, usually we go straight from school to the barn, so there’s not a lot of time to get schoolwork done in between. I would take advantage of study hall, a few minutes at lunch, or even in the car on the way to my lessons to get a start on the work that waited for me after my ride. I found the challenge of tackling my homework after a long day to be a lot less daunting if I knew that I had already made some progress.
Another aspect of balancing riding with academics is staying organized. It’s easy for busy days to transform into chaotic madness if you’re running from one thing to the next without a plan for time management. The way that I liked to keep track of my day was by writing lists and taking advantage of calendars and agendas. Being able to see on paper which days are busier than others and which classes are giving you more assignments on certain days helps to inform the way you manage your time at the barn. If you’ve only got one chapter of reading tonight, then it might be okay to stay the extra thirty minutes at the barn and give your horse a bubble bath, but maybe save it for tomorrow if you know you have seven chapters waiting for you at home.
An element of this ambitious lifestyle that often gets ignored is taking breaks. For some people, it can feel like the barn is interfering with time to get schoolwork done and layering on the stress, or maybe it’s the reason you don’t get to go to the football games like all of your friends. For others, the social and academic obligations of school might be hindering show preparation and training. Unfortunately, you can’t say “yes” to everything that you want to do, so be kind to yourself in the way you schedule your time. It’s okay to skip a hack day to go see the school play, and you won’t get an F on the test this week just because you borrowed some study time for your jumping lesson. Managing your roles as both an academic and equestrian student is a give and take. Sometimes, you need days where you don’t have anything at all on your calendar, and that’s okay, too. It’s crucial to listen to yourself and give yourself time to enjoy yourself to avoid burnout.
It is a huge responsibility to try to balance your education and your life as an equestrian, on top of the challenges of everyday life. However, for people who are dedicated to both riding careers and academic success, this lifestyle will be incredibly rewarding and it will be worth even the most stressful moments.