A Chronicle of the Horse post asked about the ins/outs of taking your FEI Young Rider horse to college and I got a little carried away with my answer, having been through the experience myself.
Here is a reposting, so we can discuss. I think this is a very important issue to talk about with our FEI Young Riders, as I think it is one of two major transitions that affects their decision to stay in the program.
Congrats on joining the FEI Young Riders group! As someone who now knows how much work it takes to get/stay at that level, it will be easy for you to understand the commitment it will take in college.
First question to ask yourself – do you want to continue that time/energy commitment in college? The rewards are huge, but so are the sacrifices. College is the time to be away from home, stay in the library for 18 hours working on a paper, try new things, meet new people, go abroad for a semester/two. Do you have a plan for your/horse(s) training when you are doing these things? Think of it as bringing a baby to college with you – it is possible, but not everyone wants it.
The director of athletics at my college told us that, on average, a varsity athlete’s gpa drops by 1.0 while they are in season. As an FEI competitor out of the varsity system, I found my training schedule to be the same as my varsity friends. From experience, we all thought we could beat the average – even the best students had to sacrifice crucial study time to train their horses – and though we weren’t getting bad grades, few were getting perfect marks.
I would HIGHLY recommend picking the colleges you want to go to and then picking a local trainer/barn you would want to connect with if you were just moving to the area. As an FEI Young Rider, that is somewhat limiting because you want to be working with an FEI trainer of some reputation near a school you would go to even if you didn’t have a horse. If you are really looking for academics, I hate to say that few schools are good enough for you and your horse. As an elite student and rider, please do not settle on a school or barn just because it is there.
If you are considering Intercollegiate dressage instead/in addition to bringing a horse of your own, read about it on my blog post: http://special.equisearch.com/blog/hilarymoore/2009/11/intercollegiate-dressage.html
Anyone who reads this is welcome to PM with questions – I did not have someone who had been through this situation to help me and it resulted in the sale of my FEI Young Rider horse about 3 months after Freshman orientation.
Good luck! Being a college student AND FEI Young Rider is the beginning of the rest of your life (juggling an overbooked schedule with the full-time commitment of FEI competition).