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Figuring out college

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  • #21
    Hey there OP, I'm a mom of a son who is just finishing up his gap year and will go to art school in the fall. The gap year's been great for him. He worked some, traveled to spend time with his grandparents, and started figuring out what it is that he likes and piques his curiosity. A gap year for you might be working full time at a stable or for a trainer, interning at an accounting firm to see if you like it, searching out an attorney with an equine-based practice and interning there, working at a vet and so on.

    I recommend that you:

    * finish out high school with your very best effort in all your classes
    * study for your ACT or SAT and put forth your best effort in those (which may mean taking them again)
    * talk to your school counselor about college choices
    * talk with your folks about feeling up in the air about schools and pathways of study. Be honest and open to what they have to say. They may feel panicky - "No - you're GOING to college!" - but if you would like a gap year, lay out a framework of its specific benefits for you.
    * or perhaps there's a field out there that you'd like to launch into which does not immediately require college - like professional grooming or perhaps you could apprentice under a horse masseuse. Or, you could go to a farrier program and learn that trade. My hardworking farrier went through the certificate program in Tucamcari, NM and, lemme tell you, he makes bank, even in West Texas, where most people shoe their own horses.

    In short, there are lots of options for you. Your life can have many chapters. Try not to stress too much, but revel in the excitement of laying out the foundation for what you want to do after high school.


    • #22
      The way the admissions process works, it really pays to apply to college straight out of high school even if you intend to take a gap year (which is a great option for a lot of people). Most schools will allow you to defer admission (sometimes twice) with a basic explanation of what you intend to do with yourself during your year off.


      • #23
        If you like math and numbers and money, there is a whole world of financial services out there. It isn't just limited to book keeping and accounting. People do all kinds of things in money markets and economics and money management, often these days with computer programs.

        And this is also where many of the highest paying jobs and the quickest fortunes are made these days.

        Rich people will pay alot for employees that can make them ruch and keep them rich.

        The care and feeding of money pays better than the care and feeding of humans or animals, much much more.

        If you like math, then get into accounting and money management and see where that takes you.

        A gap year is also a great idea.

        As far as horse training, the people that do well at it usually become trainers after a successful competition career that shows they have something concrete to offer. They also usually need to fund their own facility because horse training is a small business activity, trainer is business owner.

        As an 18 year old with guts and a sticky seat, you have some good basic attributes, but they are just a starting point. And if you aren't in a position to spend the next decade campaigning your horses at a fairly high level, you won't have the resume folks are looking for in a trainer.

        Honestly no one sends horses to a trainer of 18 or 20 who did a program in NH. You just don't have enough to offer beyond what many other ammie riders know.


        • #24
          Don't panic about not knowing what you want to do for the rest of your life! I know the schools start pushing career planning very early and often now, but really, you just don't know enough to choose right now. You've been going to the same schools with the same people in presumably a similar economic/cultural situation, and you've been taking the same stock classes that your high school offers. You just haven't been out there in the world and exposed to enough things yet.

          Of all the people I know, I only know one person who knew what she wanted to do in high school, went to school for it, and got a job in it, which she continues now almost 30 years later. She is a nurse. Everyone else started college undecided (like me) or starting thinking they would major in one thing then switched to something else along the way. Many others don't have a career in the same field as their degree.

          My son just finished 12th grade and is unsure of his future plans but is leaning towards "something sciency but light on math". He will be going to a liberal arts college where you don't have to declare your major until you've been there 3 or 4 semesters. That gives him time to take the core requirements, and maybe one of those will spark an interest. That's how it went for me. I ended up with a major I wouldn't have predicted, and eventually a job in the field that I really enjoy.

          To answer your original question, go for option 3, where you go for a valuable degree in something you like and keep horses as a hobby. There are many ways to make it work, but having a job you like makes everything else so much easier.


          • #25
            When I was your age, my trainer gave me the advice - get a job that lets you feed the horses, don't rely on the horses to feed you. I did a traditional four years at a private liberal arts school, and got a job in business that makes 6 figures. At 26, I own my own home, outright own my car, truck and trailer, can afford to keep my forever heart horse happily retired, and my new guy who I can actually compete (and afford to compete) on. I see people my age who either are trying to make the horses their job or went to school for equine studies - they're living in RVs behind the barns or are still at home with their parents.

            If I could go back and redo anything, it'd be either knocking out core classes at a community college or picking a school that cost less. As a 17 year old, I didn't quite realize how much I was going to be paying back until I was about to graduate. Of course, as your bread and butter adult ammy, it takes work to make time for horses. It's waking up at 5am to work out, working from 8-5, fighting traffic to the barn after work 5-6x a week, and not getting home until 9pm. Then it's managing vacation days and shows, but I know my mom's gotten a few good pictures of me braiding and leading conference calls with my team.


            • #26
              Originally posted by OTTB_Chick View Post
              Thank you all for the advice! I like the idea of accounting because I really like math and doing that sort of stuff so I will look more into that. xQHDQ Thank you for putting those jobs and their info like that. I really like the problem horses! I currently am riding a problem horse that was given to me and I am working with 3 other "problem" or "Green Beans" that are at my barn. I love them and they may not be the best for my body or sanity at times but I love them so much!

              Thank you all for the advice! I can't wait to read more!
              You may like them now, when they present an interesting challenge and you presumably have someone else paying for your health insurance coverage and other life expenses. Problem horses are frankly a lot less appetizing when you are paying your own bills, with the knowledge that one bad fall could put you out of commission for many months - during which time you might have no other way to earn a living, pay your rent or buy food.

              My advice is to get a solid education that will allow you to make a good living and enjoy horses as a hobby.
              We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


              • #27
                The question I have for you is what do you like to study (I noticed math earlier)? Most people change career 5-7 times in their life. You will be miserable spending time studying something you don't enjoy and you won't do as well in it. Find something you enjoy studying and look at what skills you are developing doing that. These are probably skills you can use in a wide range of settings. The National Association of College and Employers asked their employer members to identify the key competencies they want of all college graduates. Here they are:
                Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Goethe


                • #28
                  It isn't enough to like problem horses. You need to be able to get them doing something credible in a discipline to have people really notice.

                  You do not want to try making a career out of sorting out low end problem horses for budget conscious ammies and newbies. There will not be much money in that. Obviously some clients might be in that category but it's not enough to build a business.

                  People with low end horses won't or can't pay the training bills to keep a horse with you 3 months or permanently. The people that will sink money into training arrive with quality horses and want fairly quick results to get the horses into competition in a specific discipline.

                  Can you make a green OTTB into a respectable lower level jumper in 6 months or a year? Can you make a green 5 year old QH into a Western Pleasure or beginning reining horse? Etc. Thats what people pay for.

                  The big money in NH is traveling giving clinics to help clueless ammies and newbies sort out their basic groundwork skills. For that you need to be able to offer experience and skills of a high level, clinic level. I think that most NH clinicians build on a previous discipline, plus are very good marketers and charismatic.

                  There are no 18 year old clinicians traveling independently.


                  • #29
                    OP, here is my advice:
                    - Don’t feel pressured to jump right into school if you really don’t know what you want to do. I have a lot of friends who are saddled with huge amounts of debt for degrees they don’t use, because they felt they had to make a quick decision. Debt can and will limit your options in the future, so don’t rush your choice.

                    -IMO, equine degrees are a waste of time and money. I have hired ~15 young adult employees for jobs at an eventing barn and my experience with ones from equine programs has not been good (lack of practical experience, taught incorrect or disproven things, overconfident in their abilities, etc). You are better off getting real life experience.

                    - if you want to train, understand that you will have to work your way there. Likely at least a year as a working student, then a while as an assistant trainer, before being ready to go out on your own. Finding a quality program is key here- take your time, shop around, and find a program that has proven that it can produce successful trainers in your chosen discipline. If it can’t do that- keep looking. I spent a couple of years hopping through low-level and questionable programs before finding a great one, and while I learned things from them, my time would have been better spent elsewhere.

                    - Vet tech- I am currently an equine tech (teaching and training as a supplemental job now, not full time). I love it and I make decent money BUT I know there are lots of tech jobs that pay peanuts and have bad working conditions. Before going to school for this, see if you can work as a vet assistant for an equine practice to see if you like the work. There are also seasonal tech jobs available in the south (might not be designated as tech jobs, but essentially the same stuff) as well as internships that will train you on the job and will give you an idea of whether that sort of job is for you. If you decide to go this route, find a good practice with competitive pay and hours that work for you.

                    ETA: I have two Bachelor’s degrees, one in the arts and one in science, and promptly started doing horses- working student, assistant, then trained full time until very recently- when I graduated. I don’t regret it, but be sure you understand the lifestyle you are signing up for. The hours are long and the money is bad. It’s one thing to say you’re fine with living on a shoestring budget, but it’s another to really live it, for years on end. Missing friends’ weddings because you can’t afford the travel and don’t get any days off, turning down social invites because lunch or dinner out won’t fit in the budget, putting things back at the grocery store because you need to buy hay this week and you can’t afford to eat what you really want. Sometimes your horses are hurt and they are costing you even more than usual, and you’re watching everyone else ride and compete while you sit on the sidelines. Maybe you’re on the road constantly so you can’t have a normal relationship with your SO, and maybe you don’t start a family. Not saying there aren’t exceptions, but it’s not for everyone, and it’s hard to really understand until you’ve lived it. Spending some time apprenticing will give you a good idea of whether or not the benefits of the pro lifestyle are worth the sacrifice for you.
                    Last edited by Equisis; Jun. 3, 2019, 07:07 PM.


                    • #30
                      OP, you're not alone. I'm a community college instructor and the number of students who come into my classes already knowing what they want to do is pretty small. You'll take classes that challenge you, you'll take classes that interest you. You may find that you want to do something that has nothing to do with horses. That's perfectly all right.

                      Just repeat to yourself: at 18, you do not need to know what you want to do with the rest of your life.

                      Don't take out tons of student loans just so you can go to college. Apply for Pell grants if you can get them, and scholarships. It's one thing few of my students understand, the idea that it takes forever to pay off those student loans.

                      Do, however, remember that colleges are shifting a bit. Someone earlier mentioned that you can explore more at a CC. That may be true in some places. But my college, for example, recently changed last year (citing something to do with federal aid), so that if you are a declared major, you cannot take courses that are not on your degree grid, unless you pay for them yourself. It sucks. It's not what a CC should do. But there it is.

                      Spend the summer thinking about your interests. Can any of them be turned into a career, with the right training and degree? Talk to your counselor and adviser, and see if they can brainstorm with you.

                      Like someone else said, you'll change careers often. I can tell you what it's like to be in your mid-30s, riding green horses that like to spook and buck for no reason, when you have no health insurance. It's not fun. But, maybe a business degree that lets you open a tack shop, or work for Dover, would keep you in the horse loop. There are lots of options out there.


                      • #31
                        Originally posted by OTTB_Chick View Post

                        I have to go to college, there is no way around it and I need to work with horses. I want to become a horse trainer(doesn't everyone) or even go and work for a trainer. The problem with that is that I want to be able to afford having my own horses and I am not sure that I would be able to do that if I became a trainer or if I would become frustrated and not want to do horses. I am planning of doing a training internship the year after I graduate but I want to figure out what I want/need to do.
                        OP you've received some great advice. I'd like to add that it is very important to understand one important principle about the horse industry that surprises most of the young, horse-crazy adults that enter it:

                        The horse business is not about horses. It is entirely about people.

                        ...Not horses. People.

                        Yes you need to know how to handle, train, ride, medicate, doctor the horses, etc, sure. But they are the "goods," the commodity. Ultimately making money and being successful (aka earning a living wage) in the industry is completely dependent on your ability to handle people as your clients, not necessarily the horses. You have to manage your clients' wants, desires, goals, limitations, strengths, weaknesses, expectations, and timelines. And then figure out how to make them work with an animal that has zero comprehension of any of those things, and doesn't live by timelines. I think that is what shocks and frustrates a lot of very eager, horse loving young people entering the industry.

                        Take note to what Scribbler said about show record and training. If you don't have a show record at a certain level, breaking into the industry as a trainer (especially on your own) is extremely difficult. I once asked a show jumping idol of mine, someone who is still at the tops of the FEI world rankings, how I could become an A-circuit rider/trainer. Their answer? Have a successful junior career at the AA level (which I didn't have). And you know what? They're not wrong.

                        Not saying you need a USEF AA career already, but the point is if you don't have some success in your discipline attached to your name, you're likely going to have to work for a trainer who does. This frustrates some people because sometimes training decisions won't be up to you, it's up to the head trainer, and it's on you to execute. If you think a horse needs 5 or 6 months of slower training, but the client wants it jumping courses in 45 days and the head trainer agrees to take the horse on...then you need to get the horse jumping in 45 days. Clients will happily take their money elsewhere if not. Some of that might sound okay until you run into an issue where you disagree with or are against the trainer's decisions or approach to training. If you can't convince them to see your point or compromise, you have to decide if you want to stand firm to your training beliefs/morals (and possibly have to walk away from that training job or from the horse profession completely), or do what you feel is wrong because your boss told you to, and you need a paycheck.

                        It happens. And this is not talking about abuse... this has been as simple as strongly feeling that a horse should not be in draw reins due to mental/physical issues and/or training gaps, but being directed to ride it in draw reins anyway for an extended period of time so the client can visit and see it going nicely. What do you do?

                        And Lucassb is totally correct with what life can be like on a shoestring paycheck/budget. Doable for a little while, but losing the conveniences because of a tight wallet can really be downright depressing over time. For me, I eventually lost the passion for riding and when I had the opportunity to buy a horse I really liked, I could not afford him, and didn't have time (or energy!) to ride him anyway.

                        I also was happy to work with the tough, "problem" horses in my early 20's until a kick to the upper arm put me out of work for several weeks. I worked through the pain after fall off a green stallion that nearly broke my neck and probably gave me a concussion because I couldn't afford to stay home (and that was with health insurance). I'd say I probably stopped "bouncing" after falls when I was about 22 or 23 years old. Things hurt a lot more after that, and most people get very wary of which horses they will and will not get on as a result.

                        I agree a gap year or so would be great for you, do a training internship and get a better grasp of what full time in the horse business looks like. Getting some core classes (or an associates) completed at a community college is a very sensible choice, especially in something practical like business, accounting, or finance related that will help you in or out of the horse industry. As others have posted, there's a lot of pressure to have the rest of your life figured out at 18, but don't fall into that trap. Have a plan, stay flexible, and know that no one ever really has it figured out. Even at 25, 35, 45, 55 years of age....Life is a long and unpredictable journey!
                        War Horse Blog
                        Blogging for The Chronicle of the Horse


                        • #32
                          If you don't know what you want to do other than be with horses than don't go to college (at least not full time). Go find a job in the horse industry and go to a community college part time. You can knock out your core requirements there and if you figure you want to go to college it will be easy to get there. Most states have a guaranteed entrance into the state colleges as long as you hold some minimum GPA at the CC level.

                          To spend four years at college to then just go work with horses is a waste of time and money.
                          A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.


                          • #33
                            If attending a community college... MAKE Sure the credits will transfer to the desired four year school....sometimes not all even basic core core course credits will transfer. A person has to check with the four year school to see if the credits earned at the CC are acceptable.

                            At least here even if the two schools are in the state system that does not ensure the transfer ability of the credits


                            • #34
                              I had this problem too. Loved working with animals in general, had no idea what I wanted to do, wanted to work with horses and loved the training part of it. But any career that involved animals was not going to pay for the life I wanted my horse to have.

                              I love math, and had some people suggest I try engineering (after I tried about ten other majors and didn't care for any of them). I scoffed at first because I didn't think I was the engineering type, but tried it anyways. I LOVED it. Ended up getting a degree in aerospace engineering and work as a contractor for the army trying to make helicopters safer for soldiers. If you like math, don't rule that out, it's a pretty decent starting paycheck and I do things that are beneficial and could save someone's life.


                              • #35
                                Originally posted by GoneAway View Post
                                A serious if not somewhat naive question for all my fellow "seasoned" posters here...

                                Why the push for everyone to go immediately from high school to a bachelors degree? Is it not socially acceptable for a kid to take a year off after high school, work and get some life experience, or even work for (gasp) a couple years before going on to school? Is it simply because the admissions process favors (or is easier for) recent high school grads, or that school is fresh in their minds? Or is the "bachelors is the new high school diploma" driving this and forcing kids to college immediately in order to give them a level playing field for entry level positions in most career fields?
                                I suggest that based on my personal experience. I went from high school directly through both a bachelors and masters degree program. Yeah, I was pretty much whipped at the end of it but landed a good job. One year later, I thought about going for a PhD because my company had a very generous continuing education program. I took 1 class as a refresher and discovered that I had almost forgotten how to study and frankly was really busy working full time and having gotten married, doing other fun stuff.

                                I got a C on a mid-term!! My graduate GPA was 4.0 (this is before the days of it being possible to get higher than that) and to make matter worse, I went back through my notes from graduate school and found that I had gotten the exact same problems correct on a test in grad school. So I buckled down and pulled out an A in the class, but it took the same level of dedication that I had applied previously just with a lot of other life commitments at the same time.


                                • #36
                                  Originally posted by OTTB_Chick View Post
                                  Thank you all for the advice! I like the idea of accounting because I really like math and doing that sort of stuff so I will look more into that.
                                  If you like math, study math. My degrees are in mathematics and I've held my own with engineers in the aerospace field for over 35 years. Math is the language of the universe!!

                                  I was in a meeting once and someone asked what kind of engineer I was, when I replied I was an applied mathematician, an old guy said, "Great, that means you know how to think!"


                                  • #37
                                    Math talent is fairly rare, math makes the modern world go round in finance and tech and engineering, and those jobs pay well and can be fascinating, and creative in their own right.

                                    I say this from my comfortable perch in the humanities, as someone without strong math talents, looking at it from the outside .

                                    If you have math talents, go in that direction and see where you land.

                                    It's hard to predict job categories of the future because things change. I was in college in the early 1980s. Some friends took introduction to computer programming in C plus code. Just because it seemed cool, not thinking it would ever be practical.

                                    Within 15 years everyone had laptop computers. No, we didn't see that coming at all. The ground floor Microsoft millionaires were incubating 100 miles South in Seattle and we had no idea at all.


                                    • #38
                                      I'm going to chime in to say don't forget about the trades. Construction, electriction, plumber, etc. Many pay well and have job security and transport well if you choose to move.


                                      • #39
                                        Originally posted by clanter View Post
                                        If attending a community college... MAKE Sure the credits will transfer to the desired four year school....sometimes not all even basic core core course credits will transfer. A person has to check with the four year school to see if the credits earned at the CC are acceptable.

                                        At least here even if the two schools are in the state system that does not ensure the transfer ability of the credits
                                        California has a web page that allows you to check online ( The transferability is definitely better than it used to be, at least here. Definitely talk to a counselor if you decide to go this route and try to find one who specializes in transfer. Our community college transfers large numbers of students to four-year schools and the counseling department is a huge part of this. If you do talk to someone who tells you that a XYZ transfers, note their name and the date in case you get conflicting information later.

                                        Also, some courses will transfer for one major, but not for another. Or you might have to do something extra. For example, our Organic Chemistry course transfers to the University of California campuses, but chemistry and chemical engineering majors have to take a standardized exam in order to get the credit. Oddly, we get more trouble with the Cal State campuses on the transferability, as they consider it upper division.
                                        The Evil Chem Prof


                                        • #40
                                          Originally posted by Christa P View Post
                                          I'm going to chime in to say don't forget about the trades. Construction, electriction, plumber, etc. Many pay well and have job security and transport well if you choose to move.
                                          Yes, as I said on the other similar thread I think, traditionally male jobs pay much more than traditionally female jobs (plumber versus kindergarten teacher). The catch is that it can be harder for a young woman to fit into a male jobsite and advance there. It's more doable nowadays, but there are still challenges. Whereas a young woman might feel more welcome in a traditionally female job, but find that the salary ceiling is ridiculously low.