Other Riding Tips

Horseback Riding in College: Tips from Caitlin Boyle

Caitlin-Boyle-Jumping
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Written by Caitlin Boyle

College Team: Auburn University (Learn More)
State: Alabama
Year in College: Senior
Joined Team:  2015
Riding Discipline(s): English

About Caitlin: I am 22 years old and from Hamshire, Illinois.  I am majoring in family business and entrepreneurship to prepare me for handling my professional career in this sport. When I am not riding, I enjoy watching movies with friends and working out.

Collegiate Equestrian Interview

Q: What was your pre-college horse experience?

I have been riding horses ever since I can remember. My dad introduced me to riding when I was just four years old. My dad and his father both were in the horse business. Growing up, I competed in jumpers and hunters before moving into the equitation divisions when I was 13 years old. I was lucky enough to qualify for all of the equitation finals every year until I aged out.

I was sixteen years old when I showed at Wellington, Florida. The following year, I got the opportunity to train with Andre Dignelli at Heritage Farm. It was an incredible experience, and I was so fortunate to ride some amazing horses.

During my final year in the equitation, I was the winner of the Ronnie Mutch award at Devon, 3rd at USET finals east, and 4th at the Washington International Horse Show.

Q: What were equestrian team tryouts like?

Each equestrian team has their own process of recruiting. For the Auburn team, people are either recruited by getting recognized by coaches at horse shows or they attend equestrian camps which let the coaches know they were interested in being on the team. These camps also allow the coaches to see how riders work around horses and with other people. I was lucky enough to be recruited by the coaches, which made my process of being on the team very simple for me.

Q: Describe a typical week on the team.

Caitlin-Boyle-TeamAs an athlete, we have many responsibilities both academically and athletically. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays begin with a team workout that starts at 5:45am. We have some amazing strength coaches that push us every time we show up in order to be stronger riders. After workouts, we attend class–usually until noon.

From class, we go to the barn where we must catch our horse from the fields and tack them up to get ready for practice. Our rides can last up to 45 minutes, depending on the activities we are doing that day. After we ride, we care for the horses before putting them away and clean all of our tack. There are also a list of barn chores that must be completed every day. These chores range from cleaning stalls, picking up manure around the property, putting away barn laundry, and setting a new jumping course.

After practice, some people attend tutoring for a couple hours. Other days we have athletic meetings or events that we must attend. On the weekends, we are free to do the things we enjoy. I like to go bowling or go to the movies. Even though we take what we do very seriously, we remember to still have fun and enjoy the friends we make in college!

Q: What type of riding did you choose and why?

Caitlin-Boyle-CanterI compete in english riding which includes jumping and flatting. For jumping, it is judged as a normal equitation class. For the flat portion of competition, we are sent a flat pattern prior to the meet that we have to memorize with different maneuvers between the letters around the ring.

It is set up very much like dressage, but is slightly different since the horses are not sent to the schools with previous dressage training. My father first put me on horses for english riding and I chose to stick with it ever since then.

At school, I have had the opportunity to ride some of the western horses and it is very different, but still so much fun. At the end of the day, I would still chose riding english because I prefer the adrenaline from jumping big courses.

horse rookie guide to jumping

Q: What are some challenges of balancing academic and equestrian responsibilities?

The biggest challenge that comes from trying to balance academic and equestrian responsibilities is learning how to properly manage your time. Time management is crucial for success in every aspect of life and there is no better way to learn it than in college. There are so many things going on all the time and it forces you to stay on top of all of your responsibilities. Of course, we have our teammates that help us remember the little things, but calendars or planners are a huge help as well.

Thanks to our wonderful student athlete center, we can sign up with mentors that help us keep track of our class assignments and show us how to go about planning our days. These mentors are optional, but are highly encouraged to help the newcomers get set up for a successful college career.

Q: What’s one “rookie mistake” you made?

Caitlin-Boyle-PatOne mistake I have made during my college career was not paying close enough attention to my horse when my opponent was riding it. In college, I rode the same horse as a girl from the other team and whoever does a better job gets the point. Depending on the draw, I may get to ride the horse first or second. If I draw the horse second, I get the opportunity to watch the horse jump a round with the other rider first.

This can be a big advantage if you can pick up any good or bad habits of the horse. If the horse has a tendency to swap off a certain lead or do anything that would have a negative affect on your score, you should be able notice before getting on. I would highly recommend paying close attention anytime your horse is working in the ring to try to understand the way it works. You do not have a lot of time to figure everything out, so learning what you can before riding is very helpful.

However, riders must keep in mind that people ride differently and just because the horse went one way for your opponent does not mean it will act the exact same way for you.

Q: What have horses taught you?

Horses have taught me so much throughout my life. Some of my greatest moments and some of my worst moments have all come from horses. Horses are the best at teaching responsibility. When you get your own horse, you are responsible for their wellness and happiness. Everyday, you have to notice if something does not seem right or if you horse is not feeling well.

Caitlin-Boyle-Nationals

Also, you are responsible for making sure they get the appropriate daily exercise, which sometimes means skipping time to hang out with friends in order to be there for your horse. You must give your horse the love and respect they deserve because they do so much for us. A horse will also keep you humble. One minute you feel like you are on top of the world and the next you are down in the dirt with embarrassment.

The best thing you can do is learn to fail. If you aren’t at the top of your game at all times, horses will certainly remind you that they are animals with minds of their own.

Q: If you could travel back in time to your first day on the team and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

Caitlin-Boyle-Team-2My advice to younger me would be to always work harder than the person next to you. Everyday is an opportunity to become a stronger and more educated rider and do not take that time in the saddle for granted. People notice the ones who keep their heads down and work hard for what they want and that is what earns you respect from your peers.

If you want to standout in the arena, then you will have to put the time and effort in both on and off of the horses. I would also remind myself that life isn’t fair. Remember that maybe you will not get the horse that you want. Maybe you think you should have won that point, but at the end of the day, you are on the most incredible team with the most supportive teammates and life goes on.

Learn from your mistakes and do everything you can to get better.

Q: Why should students join a college equestrian team?

There are not enough good things to say about joining a college equestrian team. Our whole lives, we have been competing as individuals in this sport and typically don’t have have anyone (besides our trainers or family) cheering us on.

When you join a team, you instantly get 40 cheerleaders that support you 100 percent. It is the most incredible feeling to be apart of something so much bigger than yourself. We spend so much time and energy working towards one end goal and winning together is best feeling in the world.

There is no success unless every member of the team buys into the program and gives it all they have. Seeing so many girls working hard every day is inspiring and makes me want to be a better person and rider. Not only do I have great teammates, but I have made friends that I will have for life and will always be able to count on.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYxq_PyoGlQ]
horse rookie guide to jumping

Q: What’s one piece of gear you can’t live without?

See our favorite helmet on Amazon

One piece of rider apparel I cannot live without is my helmet! I have taken many falls in my life, way more than I can count, and I know things would not have been the same if it was not for my helmet to protect me.

I know that people trust their horses and do not think helmets are necessary at times, but accidents happen and helmets can save a life. I have seen helmets crack in half after a bad fall and remembering that is a constant reminder of the importance of safety.

Q: Who is your favorite horse to ride and why?

My favorite horse to ride at school is Duell. He is sometimes stubborn and can have a bit of an attitude, but he is still willing to improve each time I ride him. Seeing the improvements in a horse after time in the saddle is the most rewarding feeling and is the reason I have spent my life riding horses. Knowing that I am able to communicate what I want with a horse just through body language is incredible to me.

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About the author

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Caitlin Boyle

I am 22 years old and from Hamshire, Illinois. I am majoring in family business and entrepreneurship to prepare me for handling my professional career in this sport. When I am not riding, I enjoy watching movies with friends and working out.