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Horseback Riding in College: Tips from Julia Roshelli

Julia-Roshelli-Team
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Written by Julia Roshelli

College Team: University of Findlay (Learn More)
State:  Ohio
Year in College: Senior
Joined Team: 2015 (Freshman Year)
Riding Discipline(s): Reining and All-Around

About Julia: I am from Collegeville, Pennsylvania and have been riding horses all my life. I am currently majoring in Western Equestrian Studies and Marketing at the University of Findlay. Other hobbies and interests I enjoy are playing basketball and waterskiing.

Collegiate Equestrian Interview

Q: What was your pre-college horse experience?

I started taking riding lessons at the age of six. Growing up, I rode a lot of hunter/jumper horses and showed English at local open shows. When I was in high school, I joined a Western IEA team and began showing in horsemanship and reining. I also showed in the all-around events at AQHA shows.

After going to visit Findlay several times and watching the Western IHSA Team show, I knew from a young age that this was the university I wanted attend and the team I wanted to show with.

Q: What were equestrian team tryouts like?

Team tryouts for the Findlay Western IHSA Team was a great experience. The coaches and upperclassman were very supportive and helpful which made it a relaxing and enjoyable experience. We tryout within our division and ride two different horses for the horsemanship rail work and then complete a horsemanship pattern.

Q: Describe a typical week on the team.

Julia-Roshelli-NationalsA typical week on the Findlay Western IHSA Team includes a team workout at 6:00am on Wednesday mornings for an hour. Then, on Thursday nights, after everyone is done with class, we have a team meeting to prep for our horse show that weekend.

On Friday morning, we practice at 6am for an hour and then return to the barn that night at 5:30pm to clean up the arena, prepare all the paperwork, and ride all 30 horses in order to prepare for the home show that we are hosting the next day. We will usually arrive at the barn the next morning around 6:30am to saddle and prepare the horses for the show. We then get ourselves dressed and ready to start showing at 9:00am and we usually show until about 5:00/6:00pm.

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

When I am not riding and showing with the IHSA team, I train and show reiners. Before I came to college, I became very interested in learning the reining. I worked for a reining trainer for two years during my time at Findlay and have had the opportunity to ride and train several reiners in Findlay’s equestrian program.

This quickly became my favorite discipline because of the intensity and preciseness of the maneuvers. I love to see and feel the horses learn to turn around, stop, and run free in their circles.

There is an immense amount of finesse and feel that goes into teaching reining horses these maneuvers that have such a high level of difficulty. I am always fascinated by the athleticism and talent these incredible horses have. In my opinion, there is nothing better than running and stopping a reining horse.

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

The biggest challenge of balancing academic and equestrian responsibilities would be time management and prioritizing. I know that my education is extremely important and so I work very hard to make sure my schoolwork is never sacrificed.

It takes a lot of self-discipline to stay organized but I prioritize my homework and team responsibilities to make sure the most important tasks are completed first. Having such a busy schedule makes it challenging to fit everything in but I enjoy being busy and having a lot of responsibilities. As long as I manage my free time appropriately, I am able to get everything done for my classes and the team.

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

I recently bought an unbroke 2-year-old ranch horse prospect. He was good minded, so I began to move very quickly with his training. I rode him two days in the round pen and then tried to ride him in the big arena. I continued to try this for a few days and my horse ended up getting nervous and resistant. He would not want to guide and was constantly getting antsy.

I ended up having to go back to the round pen for another week to return to the basics and get his confidence back.

In hindsight, I should have taken my time with his training and stayed in the round pen for a few more days to make sure that he was confident enough and broke enough to start riding in the arena. My advice to others to avoid a situation like this would be to focus on the basics and do not rush your horse. The biggest thing a 2-year-old needs is confidence so by taking time to teach the horse the fundamentals, it sets them up for a more successful future.

Q: What have horses taught you?

Julia-Roshelli-Team-CarryMany people think that as a horse trainer, we are always the teacher and the horse is always the student. I believe this statement to be the opposite most of the time. Horses have given me a great amount of confidence, but have also humbled me when needed. They teach me how to be patient and forgiving every single day.

These animals give us so much and work so hard. For me to expect perfection from them every ride is unfair and unrealistic. This has also taught me to not expect perfection from myself. There have been an unmeasurable amount of times that I have messed up, had poor timing, or cued for the wrong thing and my horses have compensated for my mistake, continuing to listen and work.

I have learned from them to forgive myself for not being a perfect horse trainer or showman every time I sit on a horse. These incredible animals have taught me that in order to succeed, it is important to have high goals, but low expectations. If I strive to get 100% every day and do not reward my horse or myself for any of the small improvements in between, it is very hard to make progress.

When I forgive my horses and myself for our errors and recognize even the slightest advancements we are making, it is incredible what a horse and rider team can accomplish.

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?

My piece of advice to myself would be to ride like a showman, not a trainer. I would go into the show pen with the mentality that I need to make the horse go around at its very best and would focus on trying to fix every little thing that I felt throughout the class. This would take away from my presentation and ability to use my feel.

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself on the first day what I know now, and that is to ride quietly with feel, accepting what the horse is willing to give me during that class without overriding it. Entering the class with this mindset has allowed me to ride functionally while still sitting up tall, keeping a strong horsemanship position.

Q: Why should students join a college equestrian team?

Julia-Roshelli-Champ

Riding on the University of Findlay’s Western Equestrian Team has been one of the greatest experiences of my college career. There are so many incredible opportunities this team provides for the students. It is great being able to show so frequently throughout the school year and since I no longer have my amateur card, I love having the chance to show in horsemanship again.

Along with being able to show, I really enjoy show management so it has been a great learning opportunity to be able to assist in hosting and running many IHSA shows. I have learned so much from my coaches about how to be a great showman and it has improved my riding immensely over the past 4 years. Being on this team has given me new skills, techniques, and confidence that I would never have gained if it were not for being a part of this team.

Overall, the absolute best part about being a member of Findlay’s Western IHSA Team is the camaraderie and positive atmosphere. It truly is a team sport and I have developed friendships that will last a lifetime. The coaches, graduate assistants, and teammates are so supportive and it is really rewarding working towards a team goal with such incredible people.

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

Click to grab Sephora’s lipstick collection before your next show!

The cannot live without my lipstick collection at horse shows. I have over 20 colors that I always bring with me. It is the final touch to my show outfit and I make sure to match my shade of lipstick to my shirt!

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

My favorite horse to ride is a 3-year-old reiner, a son of Gunnatrashya, named Trashed My Mercedes, a.k.a. Benz. I had the incredible opportunity to start him as a 2-year-old last year and I have been riding him ever since. Benz absolutely loves his job and it shows every ride. He is one of the most willing and talented horses I have ever ridden and has an awesome personality to match.

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About the author

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Julia Roshelli

I am from Collegeville, Pennsylvania and have been riding horses all my life. I am currently majoring in Western Equestrian Studies and Marketing at the University of Findlay. Other hobbies and interests I enjoy are playing basketball and waterskiing.