Other Riding Tips

Horseback Riding in College: Tips from Shelbe Jarrett

Written by Shelbe Jarrett

College Team: Delaware State University (Learn More)
State: Delaware
Year in College: Junior
Joined Team: 2016
Riding Discipline(s): Horsemanship and Reining

About Shelbe: I am currently a junior on Delaware State University’s women’s equestrian team. I am an aviation major with a concentration in professional pilot hailing all the way from Saltsburg, PA.

Collegiate Equestrian Interview

Q: What was your pre-college horse experience?

I have been riding horses for as long as I can possibly remember. My mother grew up on the back of a horse and passed the passion down to me. (Thanks, Mom!) I can remember when I was little hauling all over the place with my mom and my grandparents, showing almost every weekend.

As I got a little older my parents even decided to invest in a boarding barn where I of course, helped feed and muck stalls. I competed mostly in the AQHA Western All-Around events and eventually went on to include IEA which sparked my love for reining prior to coming to college.

Q: What were equestrian team tryouts like?

I did not per se “tryout” to be on DSU’s equestrian team. I went through all of the necessary steps like signing up for the NCAA Clearinghouse, toured schools, filled out questionnaires for the teams, took campus tours, and submitted my riding recruitment video.

I was recruited by Coach Ridgely to come tour Delaware State University and see what life was like as a Hornet!

Q: Describe a typical week on the team.

Shelbe-Jarrett-ShowLife can get to be pretty crazy on an equestrian team. It can be very overwhelming to juggle team responsibilities, class, homework, workouts, practice…not to mention meet weeks!

During the week, you are scheduled to ride at least three times. When you ride is decided upon your class schedule and when would be most suitable for you. Throughout the week we have at least two workout sessions with our own strength coach, Coach Welsh.

Of course, between all of this you attend classes! Each student athlete on the team is also assigned a “care horse” and a weekly chore. Your weekly chore may be sweeping cobwebs, taking out the trash, organizing the wash stall, etc. but it is important to complete these tasks to keep the barn clean and in order.

You are also assigned a specific care horse to take care of. It is your job to continually check on your care horse and make sure he/she is well taken care of. It is important to have these assignments to keep the team running as a well oiled machine!

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

Shelbe-Jarrett-HandsI compete in the western events—reining and horsemanship.

Do not get me wrong, I always loved getting some time in an english saddle but I never competed in nearly the caliber as the NCEA. Western was just what I naturally gravitated toward and picked up a lot faster. Fun fact, I was originally recruited only to be a horsemanship rider on the team.

(I had some experience in reining, but not a whole lot.)

As it turns out, I’m pretty good at reining and am extremely grateful for the opportunity to compete at the college level and expand my knowledge!

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

Shelbe-Jarrett-Silly-TeamWow, in my case balancing equestrian and academic responsibilities can be extra stressful at times. I am an aviation—pro pilot major, which means that aside from regular classes and athletic responsibilities, I am also scheduled to fly three times a week.

Just like how practices are scheduled, flight blocks are assigned according to my daily schedule for at least two hours each session.

It is super important to master time management and communication in college as well as self-motivating yourself to never get up!

I like to plan out each day the night before in my head so that I am sure I am not missing anything. I also rely heavily on my daily planner to keep me on track! Communication wise, I am very fortunate that Coach Ridgely is always willing to work with my hectic schedule and values education first, of course! It is important to keep your coach and captains informed and up-to-date on everything that may conflict with your athletic/equestrian schedule.

Lastly, it is up to you to keep pushing yourself every day and keep yourself on track!

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

Oh, man… there are plenty “rookie mistakes” that I have made. It happens to everyone! Collegiate wise, I would say that letting my nerves get the best of me and forgetting to drop my stirrups during one of my first meets as a freshman is still my most regrettable mistake!

Coming into the NCEA is definitely different and it is important to learn how to control your nerves so that it does not affect your performance in the arena. In my case, I completely forgot to drop my stirrups which cost me and the team a valuable point in the competition.

But, I have learned from my mistakes and have not forgotten since!

Q: What have horses taught you?

Shelbe-Jarrett-Reining-TeamHorses have taught me many priceless lessons in life. Taking care of a living, breathing life really makes a person humble.

I think I definitely owe my work ethic to my equine upbringing. I am not afraid to buckle down, get some dirt under my nails, and get it done.

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 travel back to my first day on the team and give myself one piece of advice, it would be to take a deep breath and enjoy myself.

The first semester of freshman year is always the hardest and it is important to know that your experience in college is what you make of it.

So go out, have fun, and meet new people!

Q: Why should students join a college equestrian team?

Joining a college equestrian team is great because you are able to meet and connect with people that have the same interests and common goals.

Going to college, especially someplace unfamiliar to you, can be a bit daunting if you do not know anyone. By joining a college equestrian team, you are guaranteed to find a life long friend!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glKQyGceqEI]

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

This is a hard one, but I think I would have to say my jeans and boots! There is just something about wearing my jeans and boots (especially your favorite pair!) that make me feel so much more confident about myself. Sometimes, that is just what you need on an “off day!”

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

I feel as though I am a bit biased about this question, specifically because I brought my own horse to college—Smokey! Of course I love riding all of the horses but there is just something about getting on him that always makes me feel so much better. It also brings me so much joy to see my horse succeed at the college level with me. I love watching him compete and seeing other people ride him!

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About the author


Shelbe Jarrett

I am currently a junior on Delaware State University’s women’s equestrian team. I am an aviation major with a concentration in professional pilot hailing all the way from Saltsburg, PA.