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Riding at School

Read and learn how to check out which colleges have horse riding programs.

By Allison Griest

Kristen Slater Purdy used her love for horses to help her get a scholarship for college. She was one of the first Race for Education (RFE) scholarship recipients.

Kristen graduated from Murray State University with a Bachelor of Science in organizational communication and equine science. Now Kristen is the Director of Sales at Legacy Bloodstock in Lexington, Ky.

The RFE is a scholarship organization that supports students who want to pursue and equine-related or agricultural career. Financial need, academics and a personal interview are part of the application process.

To apply for a RFE scholarship, visit The deadline for 2009 is February 28. Over $500,000 will be awarded next year!

Choosing a college can be a tough decision. There are so many colleges to choose from, and it can be hard to narrow down your list. However, if you can't imagine a college career without horsey time, here are some tips on how to research colleges.

Getting Information
In today's world, a college's website is the fastest way to get information about degrees and programs.

Think about what sort of degree you want to get. Maybe you want to be a vet or maybe you want to be a business major. No matter what you want to do, definitely look at academic programs, and make sure a school offers classes that interest you.

Then check to see if a college has any horsey programs. Colleges may offer equine classes or even have an equestrian team. Find a contact person on a website, and shoot out an e-mail. Colleges want you to be interested in their programs, so ask as many questions as you want!

Riding in College
There are lots of different ways to ride in college. You can have your own horse, take lessons at a local barn, or join an equestrian team or club.

Even though some schools specialize in English or western, there's a program out there for you.

Many college equestrian teams compete in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA). In IHSA, you can compete in hunt seat, western or both. Top divisions in hunt seat jump courses, and in western, riders compete in reining classes. The coolest part about IHSA is that it has six divisions. The top division is for riders who have been very successful in high levels of competition. The lowest division is for riders who have never ridden before. In order for a team to do well, it needs a rider in each division. There's a place for every level of rider.

IHSA is the ultimate catch-ride situation. You travel with your team to a hosting school and compete on their horses. You can watch all the horses warm up, but you don't get to ride the horse until you walk into the show ring. You're judged on your horsemanship – how well you ride and show a horse that you've never ridden before. IHSA can be affordable and be a great way to meet other horsey people. Visit for more information.

If you know you want to show for a college, it's best to let that college know about you. While some coaches try to go to national shows and recruit riders, they can't possibly see every rider.

Introduce yourself! Send a coach an e-mail or a video.

"It never hurts to send your information," says Marianne Bartley-Lehman. Marianne is an AQHA Professional Horseman and the riding director at Midway College in Lexington, Ky.

"It shows that a student is self-sufficient, a self-starter, and that she wants it. If students send information to me, it shows that they want to compete."

Getting a Scholarship
Riding scholarships are available through breed associations, like the AQHA and APHA, and some colleges will invite riders to be on their teams by offering scholarships.

However, you don't have to ride to get a horsey scholarship. You can just love horses!
For example, Georgetown College, located in Georgetown, Ky., has lots of scholarships available for students who are in its Equine Scholars Program. To get into the program, students have to write an essay and maintain a minimum GPA.

The Equine Scholars Program is something you do outside of your regular degree program.
"We expose students to all the different parts of the horse industry," says Sarah Coleman, executive director of the program. "We aim at networking students. For example, a business major could intern with the equine lending department at a bank. When they come out of here, they have their foot in the door of the equine world."

For more information about the Equine Scholars Program, visit

How to Prepare
If you're thinking about riding in college, there are some things you can do to get ready.

You can train with different instructors, go to clinics and ride lots of different horses.

When you show for your school, you won't be riding your own horse. Getting as many experiences as possible will help you when you show a horse you've never ridden before.
Even if you don't show, you can go to horse shows and watch instructors and students in the warm-up ring.



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