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Horseback Riding in College: Tips from Katie Altenhofel

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Written by Katie Altenhofel

College Team: California State University Fresno (Learn More)
State: California
Year in College: Senior
Joined Team: Freshman, 2015-2016
Riding Discipline(s): Horsemanship

About Katie: I am originally from Murrieta, California and go to school at Fresno State. I am in my final semester as a Media Communications and Journalism Major with an emphasis in Broadcasting. I hope to become a news reporter. Taking pictures, traveling, and learning new disciplines (like roping) are a few things I like to do.

Collegiate Equestrian Interview

Q: What was your pre-college horse experience?

I started riding horses when I was ten years old. My family had no desire to ever get into horses and did not think I was dedicated to owning one myself. That all changed at the age of 13 years old when I got my first show horse. I started out showing at the 4-H level and then purchased my dream horse and began showing in the all-around events in the Quarter Horse Circuit.

Q: What were equestrian team tryouts like?

Katie-Altenhofel-ShowingTrying out for an equestrian team is different for many girls.

My senior year of High School I made a video of myself riding many different horses. I then sent out my video to tons of different equestrian schools.

Tryouts for the team are held if girls want to tryout and think they deserve a spot.

Q: Describe a typical week on the team.

A typical week for the Equestrian team looks like this:

There are 35 team girls and 48 team horses. Each girl is assigned one to two horses and one “team sister.”

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Starting on Monday, half the team is assigned to clean stalls Monday and Tuesday and the other half is assigned to clean Wednesday and Thursday. They are each assigned 2-3 stalls.

Each rider also has a practice schedule. They practice 3 times a week with Friday being “free ride.” On Mondays and Wednesdays we have team workouts from 5-6pm. On Mondays from 6-7pm, we have our team meetings.

In the middle of all this, Freshman have six hours of mandatory study hours to work on homework. Teammates can go into the training room to get treatment at any time and see advisors as well.

As a team we like to take care of our horses, every other week you must clip and bathe your chore horses as well. On show weeks we attend extra practices as well as team dinners and cleanup around the barn. This is our time to make our place look nice and bond with our team.

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

I am on the Horsemanship team. This means I ride on the western side. This event is something I have shown in all my life and felt strong enough to compete in as a college athlete.

horse rookie guide to jumping

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

Katie-Altenhofel-SillyOne challenge of balancing academics and equestrian responsibilities is getting my work my done before travel trips. I can talk with my coaches and advisors if I need more help. I try to remember I’m a “student athlete” not an “athlete student.”

I deal with these things by planning ahead and ALWAYS asking for help. With the extra benefits of being a student athlete, I try to always remember they are here to help us at any time.

Being a student athlete, the coaches want you to succeed in your major and graduate. I never want to disappoint my team members, but sometimes you need to remember to take a break and get caught up.

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

Sometimes I get so nervous that I forget everything that I’ve prepared for. I forget how to ride and anything I ever learned in practice!

I have learned over these four years to take deep breaths and focus on riding the way I know how to ride. Relaxing is not always easy, but having confidence is key when competing.

Q: What have horses taught you?

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Horses have taught me how to be patient. You are on top of a 1200 pound animal that can snap at any moment. Being patient with them has taught me life skills for future jobs and dealing my teammates. You are going to have good days and bad days and it is ok.

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?

If I could go back to my first day on the team I would tell myself, it is not worth getting worked up about every little thing that does not go my way. I am blessed to be here doing what I love. Being a senior captain, I tell my freshman that all the time. Especially when they need a little bit of encouragement.

Q: Why should students join a college equestrian team?

I think students should join an equestrian team because it is an experience you can take with you forever. Having 35 new friends that I get to call my sisters is unbeatable. Not many people get to wake up everyday and get a degree while also riding horses.

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

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

Click to shop short fenders on Amazon

As I sit here and laugh, the one thing I cannot live without is my short fender saddle. Yes, I am 5’1, and have little kid fenders at school and on my personal show saddle. They are the best and help me get my leg where I need it to be!

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

My favorite horse to ride is Zip. Zip is a bay western all around QH. I take Zip home every break, he is a super special gelding to me. He has a personality that is kinda quirky, but there is something about him. Zip and I just click.

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About the author

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Katie Altenhofel

I am originally from Murrieta, California and go to school at Fresno State. I am in my final semester as a Media Communications and Journalism Major with an emphasis in Broadcasting. I hope to become a news reporter. Taking pictures, traveling, and learning new disciplines (like roping) are a few things I like to do.