Other Riding Tips

Horseback Riding in College: Tips from Travis Fortune

Written by Travis Fortune

College Team: Murray State University (Learn More)
State: Kentucky
Year in College: Junior
Joined Team: 2016
Riding Discipline(s): Western and Hunt Seat

About Travis: I grew up on a small farm in southwestern Indiana. In high school, I showed horses and Boer goats. This pushed me to come to Murray State University and pursue my degree in Animal Science with a focus in Equine Management.

Collegiate Equestrian Interview

Q: What was your pre-college horse experience?

Before coming to college, I showed on the Pony of the Americas (POA) and AQHA circuit. I showed POA more extensively as it is a breed that focuses on youth. I started showing in lead line when I was around a year old.

At age two, I won the POA World show in the Lead Line Horsemanship. So between living on a horse farm and having a family who showed horses, I got the horse show bug and it never went away.

I was able to show all across the country my last year as a youth and ended up winning the All-Around High Point at the POA Congress.

Q: What were equestrian team tryouts like?

My first year trying out for the equestrian teams I was put on one of the more difficult horses at Murray State. I was coming in as an open rider so they wanted to test my ability and how I could handle more difficult horses.

My horse was trying to have a bucking fit, but I was able to get him to calm back down and made it through my tryout. I did not feel great about the tryout; however, my coaches, thankfully, liked how I handled the situation and put me on the team.

Q: Describe a typical week on the team.

Travis-Fortune-RibbonBeing on the equestrian teams means we have weekly practices. Hunt Seat practices are Tuesday nights, Horsemanship practices are Thursday nights, and my coach works with me to fit reining practice in wherever it works best for my schedule.

Team members are paired up, and we are responsible for keeping a horse’s stall clean. Cleaning stalls helps lighten the load for the workers and gives team members experience around the farm.

We also have a great opportunity at Murray State where we can ride the horses outside of practice times in order to get more riding time. On horse show weeks there is more going on because we are cleaning tack and getting horses ready for the shows. But, an average week is doing chores at the barn and being at practice (on time).

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


I am on both the Hunt Seat and Stock Seat team. I am more of a horsemanship rider, but I am doing the hunt team to gain more knowledge and push myself as a rider.

I enjoy the western team the most because that is what I grew up showing.

However, I am showing reining for the team and that is something I had never done before. It has been a learning curve, but I have really enjoyed it.

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

Being on both teams and being a full-time student is difficult, but I make a schedule and I have to follow it.

When I do not have my day planned out, I end up having to finish my homework late at night. I had a bad habit of spending all of my time out at the barn and then I would not get my homework done until right before it was due.

Now I have a schedule, and my life has gotten a lot easier when I follow it.

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

When I first started riding the reining, I made the rookie mistake of wanting to count to four on my spins. When I would count to four, I ended up spinning five times. It took me a while to get into counting one, two, three, “Whoa.”

When I finally got that figured out, my reining got a lot better because I was not as nervous about over spinning and everything started to come together.

Q: What have horses taught you?

Travis-Fortune-Sliding-StopHorses have taught me so much, but I think the biggest thing is patience.

I really struggled with having patience, and now that I have grown up a little more, I realized that being patient and calm gets me so much farther.

When I have patience with horses, they in turn want to work and try their best which gets me a lot better performance from them in the show pen.

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 and give myself advice, I would tell myself to not worry as much about the horse and worry more about how I was riding.

IHSA is so much different from the breed shows and at the start I wanted to put my horse together and make it look like we were at a breed show.

However, that does not matter as much in IHSA. You still have to make your horse look nice and put together, but it is more on how you are riding and how you are handling your horse, and I wish I could have realized that a little sooner.

Q: Why should students join a college equestrian team?

Students should join an equestrian team because it pushes you as a rider and you can learn so much from these experiences. In a college program, you have everything from fancy ex-show horses to old horses that just know their leads and go around the arena.

Being on a team allows you to ride so many different horses and most of them will all be trained differently.

It takes a special mindset and riding ability to get on a horse you have never ridden before and walk into the arena and show it with no warm up.

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

Travis-Fortune-Showing-HatI have a Cinch burnt orange/rust colored show shirt that I wear all the time. It stands out in the arena, but isn’t too much color that it’s distracting.

It goes to all the horse shows with me. I do not wear it every day, but once we get to regionals, semifinals, and nationals, it is the shirt I go for.

That shirt is getting fairly old now, and I am worried it is going to start falling apart and I cannot find another one exactly like it!

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

My favorite university horse is a paint gelding we call “JJ.” He is a little pleasure gelding that I get along with really well and quickly became my favorite when he got to the university. He is spur trained and has the leg cues that I enjoy while riding. It is always a good day when I have him for practice since he is one that I can focus more on me because riding spur trained horses has become more natural to me over the years.

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About the author


Travis Fortune

I grew up on a small farm in southwestern Indiana. In high school, I showed horses and Boer goats. This pushed me to come to Murray State University and pursue my degree in Animal Science with a focus in Equine Management.