Anyone who’s balanced their studies with their horses knows just how tricky it can be. It often requires travelling back and forth, missing out on social events and working on the go. When I accepted an offer to study Sustainable Development at Edinburgh University I didn’t really think about the huge distance between Scotland and South-East England and what that would mean for my riding. I have two horses, Ben and Dillon, who stay at the stable whilst I’m away. It can be tough to balance it all, but I make it work!
When I accepted my offer at Edinburgh I decided to keep my horses at home instead of bringing them with me. It’s a very long journey to drive them to Edinburgh and I didn’t feel it would be fair to do this to them every term.
I did start to miss riding a lot, so started looking around for an equestrian society to join. I didn’t have to look far, as luckily, Edinburgh is one of the many universities with equestrian teams. So in my first year, I was part of the BUCS Equestrian team. My Original Flexars came in so handy here, as I’d have to go straight from lectures to training every Monday and Wednesday. They look exactly like gym leggings, so I definitely didn’t look as odd as I would have done if I’d worn breeches!
The university equestrian club was great, and joining the BUCS Equestrian team was definitely challenging; when you compete you have 5-8 minutes to warm up a horse you’ve never ridden before and then go and do a dressage test or jump a course. My riding came on a lot as even in training you just get what you get and have to work with it, but it was too much time commitment and didn’t suit my timetable in my second year so sadly I haven’t been able to continue with it.
In terms of balancing work and horses, it’s always easier during the winter term, as the boys often have a month and a half off to relax and be a horse after a seasons eventing. Usually, they’re turned away from November until I come home again in December and this means I don’t need to leave Edinburgh to ride. Spring term is usually a lot trickier as the season starts in March. I spend a lot of time back and forth in order to get home to train and also compete. This is tough to balance as this is often a period with lots of deadlines. This month I left university for a week in order to get some good prep in before I was competing at Tweseldown on the weekend, and then it was straight back to university on Sunday! I schedule time in my diary to make everything easier, and I also find when you write it down that you’re more likely to stick to it.
Thankfully, everything for my courses can be accessed and submitted online which means I can easily work remotely, I’ve even written essays in the back of a horsebox on the way to competitions! Make sure you give yourself the time and be honest when you can’t ride because you do need to get your work done.
It can be frustrating sometimes as I don’t really ever get the winter training period that everyone else does, nor do I get to ride consistently for the first half of the competition season! I do sometimes feel a bit behind everyone else and compare my lack of riding to the fact they’re out and about all the time. But I always remind myself that I’m balancing my studies with my horses and of course there’s going to be some form of sacrifice there. University is just 4 years of solid work and it’s important to me that I do well and get the grades I deserve, so sometimes horses do get a bit traded off against that – and I’d rather go home to Ben and Dillon than join lots of university equestrian clubs i. I live for my summers and when I’m back I completely commit myself to training, competing and being with them. I always say that it’s not just a sport, it’s a lifestyle, and that’s always going to take time, commitment and sacrifice to make it work. But if you can find universities with equestrian teams or an equestrian society, you might find that balance a bit easier!
Issy - @zigzageventing