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Looking for some college horse advice!

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    Looking for some college horse advice!

    Hello everyone!

    I am looking for a bit of advice... I am a junior in high school so have started looking into colleges. I have ridden horses since I was young, always English, but got into hunt seat in early middle school. I have never owned my own horse, I have always been told it is too expensive. (I used to be quite upset by this when I was younger, but I understand now how much my parents sacrificed in time and money to get me where I am in my riding career, even without a horse of my own). Because of this, I haven’t really shown other than IEA shows. For those who aren’t familiar- you go to the show, each stable brings a few horses, you draw a horse at random, then show over fences and on the flat.

    I have taken a break from riding when my trainer moved further away about a year ago, as I also show cattle for FFA, train service dogs as a puppy raiser, and I am in the top 1% of my class in school. So it broke my heart, but I think it was for the best because of how busy I am. However, now that I can drive, I am hoping this summer and senior year (after everything has calmed down!) that I can start riding again. So I also started looking into college equestrian teams..

    My heart has always been set on Texas A&M, as I plan on studying to become an equine vet. Looking at their equestrian team though, I was surprised at how competitive it seems... I saw somewhere that over 300 people apply for only fifty spots on the team, and only half of those seats are for English/hunter riders. The thing that scares me though, is that they ask for a resume of all horse show wins, titles, etc. I don’t have any of that, since I never showed on any major circuit, and am feeling very discouraged. Without that, would riding videos I send in with the rest of the application even get looked at?

    I think I’m fairly good, but I’m definitely not the best rider out there, and now I feel like I’m not going to get a chance to ride and compete in college.

    Does anyone have any advice? Has anyone ridden/is riding for A&M? Is it truly as competitive as it sounds? Riding in college is something I always “planned” on, and now I feel like I have no chance of that. Any words of wisdom appreciated... sorry for the long post!

    Thanks, Elise

    Texas A&M’s equestrian team is Division 1. Without any kind of show record you will not even be considered for the team. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but it is the unfortunate truth. The team is extremely competitive, most, if not all spots are filled with recruits. There isn’t usually many walk on spots available. The majority of those recruited have had very successful careers in the equitation at the 3’6 level, probably went to all the national finals, many ribboned at finals as well.

    It sounds like IHSA would be your niche. IHSA takes riders of all levels, from walk trot to Open. It is almost the exact same format as IEA. Unfortunately, by the looks of the IHSA website it does not appear that TAMU has an IHSA team. If riding on a team is super important to you, maybe look around at some other schools with IHSA teams. However, I’d be very cautious about choosing a school based on whether or not they have a riding team. You will likely be paying a lot of money to get a degree. I would chose a school based on academics, and if they did not have an IHSA team, look into barns in the area and just take weekly lessons.


      Here is some interesting reading for you.


        Original Poster

        Okay. Sometimes the truth isn’t what we always want to hear, but it is good to hear regardless! The highest I have individually qualified is up through IEA zone finals (the step below nationals) so that definitely sounds past my showing level. Thank you for your input. Does anyone happen to know about the competitiveness of Cornell’s equestrian team? I do know their team is IHSA. Don’t worry, I don’t plan on choosing a school based on riding team! It’s more of a tiebreaker than a dealbreaker for me.


          Just as an extra thought with dont get bonus points for going there when applying to vet school. A lot of admission committees want people from other schools for diversity. If you are truly interested in vet school, save your pennies and go to a state school where you'll either be getting good scholarships or will be less money. There is absolutely no way I would encourage you to go to Cornell unless you had deep pockets to pay or were getting a full scholarship. Vet school tuition is around 48,000 out of state (excluding living expenses). That's enough loan burden without adding undergrad debt.

          IHSA is not worth choosing a school over. Go to a school because of the academics, IHSA comes second.


            As someone in college who is fortunate enough to have their own horse and do IHSA, I would ask yourself some questions about your goals and priorities

            If you're prevet, how rigorous is your academics going to be? Do you have time to dedicate to riding and getting to/from the barn? What is the time commitment for the schools you are considering?

            Are you going to bring your car to get to the barn (consider the cost of parking on campus, its not cheap)

            How important is showing, and the height that you show? If you have limited show record you will probably only qualify for pre-novice or novice, which are flat only. My school does only a couple shows a semester, and not everyone gets to go to every show, so if you want to show more than that then it could be a problem.

            Do you want to do equitation, or would you rather do a different discipline? Some schools have teams for eventing, or even polo

            How far from campus is the barn? Are there lesson barns closer?

            What is the cost of lessoning/showing with the team versus nearby lesson barns? At least at my school you do have to pay for training and show fees, although they are pretty reasonable. There is also team dues that are much more substantial, but it might be different at different schools.

            Figure out what you want, and definitely reach out to the teams at any schools you are considering. Most have facebook pages or websites with emails you can contact. Also research and reach out to lesson barns in the area. If you go tour schools (which I absolutely would) see if you can take a lesson with either the coach or other trainers. Also IHSA is run on a yearly basis, so if you don't do it your first year it doesn't mean you can't ever do it. You have almost a year to make your list of schools, so don't stress and don't rush it.

            Best of luck!


              If you aren't on a school team, you can certainly find opportunities to take lessons and even do a half lease at area barns, if your school is not in the middle of a big city. But doing horses usually means having a car to get to the barn which is a whole other expense. Indeed if you are at a school that requires all first year students to live on campus, you may not even be allowed to have a car.

              If money is at all tight, as it sounds, you want to graduate from your BA with as little debt as possible so you can afford vet school. You want to look at scholarships, at in state versus out of state tuition fees, and at cost of living. If money is tight you probably don't want to have a car. You also will want to consider part time jobs during term, maybe on campus, and summer jobs. If you can work in your field in some way, sciences or animal care, that will help your vet school application eventually too.

              In other words, extensive horse time might not be the best use of your education dollars.



                I agree that IHSA is the way to go. I decided on a smaller school with a club team so that I would be 100% assured a spot on the team. I'm so glad I did. As a team, we never qualified for zones or nationals. We weren't all that good! But individual riders can still qualify for regionals, zones, and nationals. I personally went to the zone finals twice (where I proceeded to post on the wrong diagonal, but that's a different story).

                In the IHSA, you get the same show experience whether you ride for Skidmore or Podunk U. It's very similar to IEA and it's tons of fun.

                Bottom line: look for a school with a decent club team competing in IHSA. When you visit the school, go visit the barn and ask to ride in a lesson with the team. That will tell you if they have a decent facility, good trainer, and satisfactory horses.


                  Good thoughts, Gertie. Along with that look for a school with a strong scholastic program in the sciences.
                  Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                  Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                    Most of what I'd want to say would already be echoing what others have said. IHSA is super fun and many schools have teams. As mentioned before, even if your school's team isn't particularly competitive (mine wasn't the year that I did IHSA), you can still qualify for regionals, zones, and nationals as an individual.

                    Since you mentioned wanting to go to vet school, there's one aspect that I really want to emphasize: go to the least expensive undergrad that you can and get stellar grades while you're there (follow up: go to the least expensive accredited vet school that you get into). Not enough people focus on the long-term financial burdens that you take on between the cost of undergraduate education and vet school, and the consequences of having a huge amount of debt as a new veterinary graduate can be very limiting. I know you're quite a ways out from making the decision about applying to vet school, but it's good to think about those financial things now.
                    Last edited by supershorty628; Nov. 5, 2019, 02:21 PM.


                      Originally posted by supershorty628 View Post
                      Not enough people focus on the long-term financial burdens that you take on between the cost of undergraduate education and vet school, and the consequences of having a huge amount of debt as a new veterinary graduate can be very limiting.
                      I cannot emphasis what Supershorty said enough. Probably the greatest gift my parents ever gave me was to pay for my college education in full. I graduated with a BBA with zero debt. I did not appreciate how freeing and amazing that was until many, many years later. Now I realize that not everyone is as supremely lucky as I was, and that graduating debt free is not an option for everyone. But the less debt you have to take on the better. And believe me when I tell you that once you've graduated and gotten your first job, virtually no one cares where you went to school. They care about the quality of your work.


                        I'll mimic what others said, only go to where you can graduate debt free or with the smallest amount of debt possible. Do not consider anything else. I ride professionally, but would not be able to do it if I had loans from college. It is tough to make ends meet when you are first out on your own, do not add to that toughness voluntarily. Life is friggin expensive.


                          The only thing I'll add about debt is that the rack rate tuition isn't necessarily the right number to look at in terms of debt. If you qualify for financial aid, an expensive school might actually be cheaper and have less predatory loans. is a very good resource to help you see the debt students actually have. Make sure you're aware of what aid is just for your first year, what you can count on for four years, and be aware that a 5th year sometimes doesn't qualify for any aid. Look for places that successfully send people to vet school if that's what you want.

                          Whether or not a school has an IHSA team, most places will have some sort of horses near by and someone to ride with. Good luck!
                          If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                            Originally posted by poltroon View Post
                            The only thing I'll add about debt is that the rack rate tuition isn't necessarily the right number to look at in terms of debt. If you qualify for financial aid, an expensive school might actually be cheaper and have less predatory loans. is a very good resource to help you see the debt students actually have. Make sure you're aware of what aid is just for your first year, what you can count on for four years, and be aware that a 5th year sometimes doesn't qualify for any aid. Look for places that successfully send people to vet school if that's what you want.

                            Whether or not a school has an IHSA team, most places will have some sort of horses near by and someone to ride with. Good luck!
                            Good point about the 5th year. Some also don't cover summers if needed.


                              I would add upon what others have said, there may be riding opportunities, if not more, outside of a team setting. As a college student, I actually taught in a program and we had college students contact the barn to start lessons which grew into working-student positions of sorts. There are barns across the U.S., if you are visiting campuses you may want to do some research into the lesson barns in the area. Riding on a team was never on my radar, from both a non-amateur card and general interest, and I found lots of opportunities to ride and be in the barns. Even as beginner riders coming in, different barns, at least from my experience, often have great-barn cultures that offer opportunities for extra barn-help to riding lesson ponies.
                              These barns thrived in college towns because the college students could come hours the younger students or working amateurs couldn't. We would travel to local shows together, hang out at the barn, so look up local barns! (Social media is a great avenue to do some research)


                                Texas A&M grad here. I chose A&M because it was a fantastic education for the money. I graduated debt free from undergrad. Professional school will set you back $250k+ (speaking from experience) so you want the least amount of undergrad debt possible. I did not ride on the equestrian team at A&M.

                                There are plenty of opportunities to ride outside of a school program, especially at A&M. You could take lessons at a local barn, look for a free or part lease, or offer to catch ride or exercise others horses.

                                If you are planning on professional school, I would encourage you to focus on your grades and minimizing debt. Veterinary school was (is?) more competitive than medical school. You will need fantastic grades and community service to stand out on applications.


                                  Original Poster

                                  Thank you all for your input! This seems like a lot of good advice and I can definitely look into other stables/riding opportunities around the campus. I guess I sometimes get a bit of an “all or nothing” mindset which is absolutely not the case here. I have time to do plenty of research when it comes to both schools and barns- it feels like college is coming up so fast sometimes, but I’ve still got over a year. Thank you!


                                    i think you need to start with the reality of the cost of college.

                                    Have you talked to your parents about their ability to support you/ contribute you to your expenses. You don't say where you live but if it is not Texas or New York, then the two colleges you mention are going to be exceptionally expensive when you consider out of state tuition and living expenses

                                    Like the others have said, focus on the quality of your education. If you want to track towards vet school, you should probably work on getting as much real life experiences and working opportunities that will help give you the competitive edge in vet school entry.

                                    You might do well to go to your local university and live at home. You could try to get part time jobs in clinics barns and other facilities where you will experience real world work situations which will look good on your vet school application. The money you earn can help support your tuition and perhaps leave some for riding. If your state university has a vet school, it opens work opportunity

                                    YOu have animal experience already; cows and horses, build on that. It would be nice to have fun and be on a college team, but the reality many people are facing now is that college is ruinously expensive and unless things change, many are going to be left behind.

                                    -- * > hoopoe
                                    Procrastinate NOW
                                    Introverted Since 1957


                                      As hard is it might be, I would definitely pick a school where you will get the education and degree that will support your riding down the road, even if that means not riding on a team. There are always opportunities to ride outside of school (working student, lessons, even teaching at a local barn to make some extra money). I feel for you! Good luck!


                                        I wouldn’t rule out being able to do everything you want without a ton of debt. I attended a well regarded public university, rode on the IHSA team, had a blast, made lifelong friends and graduated with no debt, albeit with some but not a ton of parental support. I also worked off board for my horse the last two years of undergrad. Ultimately I decided Med school made more sense than Vet school but I was well qualified to go either way. Even with quite a bit of Med school debt, I found a career that has allowed me the income stability to pursue horses more competitively than my parents could support.

                                        You sound very well grounded and will find your own best path. Keep studying and good luck!