It’s been a busy summer! To make up the riding class that I missed while I was in Italy (you can read that blog here) I spent the first few weeks of the summer at school. I rode a wonderful and portly horse named Tyra, a Spotted Draft Horse mare. Her main issue was hip control; she could move her hip, but it took effort on part of the rider. By the end of my time working with her we had her hip under control and produced quality, flying lead changes under our cinch. One of my friends (and now roommate) also took the class, but had an accident that resulted in a major concussion and having to withdraw from the class. She was disappointed, but luckily the class was not required for her major. She has been cleared to ride this fall and is looking forward to starting her first horse, an APHA palomino filly who she calls Chloe.
The lady who is supplying her colt (as well as mine) invited me to ride one of her other horses in a weekend clinic with Mary Jane Brown. I had a phenomenal time and felt like I made huge progress on Zorro, a horse who I have been riding for about a year and a half now! This past winter Zorro had been sent to a trainer to have 30 days put on him, but the trainer was a dud and the horse regressed. Thankfully, after a couple of hours at the clinic we were back to where he had been when I last rode him in December; by the end of the second day of the clinic he had made strong improvements! Besides Zorro’s progression, the highlight was probably learning how to make a Poor Man’s Martingale (aka twine tied onto the d-rings of the saddle with the reins looped through). It was so much fun to do some cow cutting as well!
Though I had not originally planned to, I returned to my position as Assistant Wrangler at the Girl Scout camp in northern Idaho. They were short-handed and more than willing to hire me even though I would be a couple of weeks late due to my class schedule. Once again, I had a splendid time and had the chance to do a lot of riding. This year my main mount was a solidly built bay gelding named Dozer. Like “Bulldozer”, not like he was a lazy guy. Every morning I got to gallop him through the pasture and herd the remuda into the corral for the campers that would be coming through that day. In the arena, we spent a lot of time working on collection, cadence, and transitions. He made much progress, but I still wish that we had had more time together.
When camp came to an end and I returned home (by a route that I had not originally planned) there was about a day before my first housesitting job began. Since then I’ve had a houseitting gig almost everyday, usually with two or three during the weekends. Sometimes I drive across town three or four times to check on the different houses and the pets that lived there. It’s been busy, but the money is good and I get to hang out with some really sweet dogs, cats, and other pets! I have at least three more jobs before I leave for school, which will definitely keep my well occupied.
Last week one of my roommates (the one who got the concussion) drove over from Washington to go tack shopping. Pickings were thin in her area and she needed to pick up a few items for the upcoming school year. We hit a half-dozen yard sales, which were all bust of what we needed, as well as a couple of tack stores. One of the stores has a great consignment section and we hit the jackpot there with all of the blankets that we found. Both of us purchased gently used Big D blankets for less than $40 a piece and hoods for $35. We had a great time and, with all of the driving, got to see a lot of places that neither of us have seen before. She also had the chance to meet Chloe for the first time!
In nine days I will be heading back to Billings and I am looking forward to this fall semester. My colt starting class will probably be the most rewarding of all of my classes. Other than riding my colt, I will be participating in the IHSA again. Last year, I missed the first semester of shows because I was on my study abroad, but in the second semester I managed to earn almost half of the points required to move up to the next division and qualify for the Regional competition. If all goes well I won’t have to attend every show this season and will be able to save some money.
In a rather short span of time I shall embark on my next grand adventure. In one of my previous posts I believe that I mentioned my interest in studying abroad in Italy, and now I am here to tell you that that is exactly what I am about to do. Two weeks from today I will leave the comfort of my own home for an eight week quest for knowledge 5,748 miles away. My total travel time to arrive in Rome is nearly 25 hours and includes four airports.
Have I started packing? No. I am still fairly unsure as to what I should haul over with me. At this point I plan on bringing a regular sized backpack and a medium sized rolling suitcase. Packing will commence next week.
I hope to keep this blog up to date during my travels, though I foresee video blogs being prevalent. There is a possibility that I will go for a certain theme, but most likely I will be lazy and just write/vlog about whatever I find to be interesting at the given time. If you have any questions or other such comments, feel free to send them on to me!
It has been 10 days since I returned to campus for my second semester of college. My favorite part of starting a new semester is all of the mail you get. Books for new classes come in from all over the country, new tack is shipped, friends and family write letters and postcards. I check the list at least once a day to see if something has come in with my name on it. Eventually it dies down and you just get the occasional letter from a friend at college back home or in another state, and those are nice. With email and Facebook and Skype people do not write as much anymore. You just don’t get the same excitement from a new email in your inbox or message on your wall (though I must admit that Skype is still exciting). There is no comparison to a handwritten letter from a friend explaining their latest dating hardship, sucky (cafeteria)/amazing (homecooked) food, and the outcome of Humans vs. Zombies. These are the kinds of mementos that you keep in the box at the back of your closet or the bottom of your hopechest for the rest of your life; the kinds of things that your future generations of adoring great-nieces and great-great-nephews will laugh and wonder over when they find them 100 years from now.
Did people in the “good ol’ days” find a mailbox full of letters as exciting as I do today? Or did they think of it with the nonchalance of the emails waiting in my inbox? I like to think that it is the prior.
People should start writing real, paper and envelope, letters again. It can be as simple as “I was just in my ice skating class and remembered that one time you got a concussion during P.E. hockey.” Of course everyone likes something a little longer and more involved. Not to mention if you are going to spend the 28 cents on a postcard stamp or 44 cents for a letter, you may as well go the whole nine yards and put a sticker on the envelope flap. Because you know that when that person gets your letter you will be more likely to get one in return. So why not sit down and write to someone while you’re eating your lunch or during the commercial break of that tv show tonight? You have to send mail to get mail.
Recently I have been stewing a new idea in my mind. It was poured in when my Art History teacher mentioned a study abroad trip to Italy for the next fall semester. I have been wanting to do a semester abroad since before I came to college, because I want to figure out if it might be a possible permanent residence in my future. There are two main issues that keep me from totally laying my chips on the table:
1. As an equestrian studies major with a concentration in equitation and training I am supposed to take a riding class every semester. This will be a tad more difficult if I am not in the country for three months.
2. My professor said that it would cost a little less than what I pay for a semester at Rocky (which is about four grand more than the other majors cost, excluding aviation). But I am not entirely sure that my financial aid and school scholarships will cover this. I basically pay the entire regular tuition and fees with that money, without it I could not even afford to go here, let alone go to Italy.
I already had a conversation with my equine instructor/ISHA coach/advisor (aka The Almighty Chris Brown) and she told me that it would not be much trouble at all to make up my riding class. Luckily, Rocky offers summer classes; this is even better since the prices are 2/3 the price of a normal class. It also looks like the classes only take about 19 days as well, which means that I could stick around after spring semester ends and still have plenty of summer left to work.
The informational meeting for the trip is this coming Thursday and I hope that my last question can be answered, along with a few others.
1. Cost; covered by finaid and school scholarships?
2. Classes available
3. What does the average day look like?
4. Where do we stay?
– dorm or host family?
5. What can we do on weekends?
6. How do the credits transfer?
7. How much money should I bring with me?
8. How do we eat? Stipend?
9. How do Student Visas work?
10. Are any classes taught in English?
I really think that a semester abroad would be an awesome experience for me, so I really hope that it works out.
While NOT working on the paper that I should have been working on and perusing IMDB I saw a blurb for the upcoming Harry Potter movie. This made me realize a sad truth, college is the nearest I will ever come to Hogwarts. Really, look at the similarities: you live at school, you have professors, you eat all of your meals at long tables with the people in your dorm or that you have classes with. I can even make comparisons between the different subjects: Chemistry = Potions, Fundamentals of Horsemanship = Care of Magical Creatures, Biology = Herbology, etc. We all dread papers requiring a certain length, though in our case it is usually word count instead of inches. Our dorm even has a common room (minus the fireplace) where we all congregate to work on homework, celebrate birthdays, and entertain ourselves.
Granted, we are allowed to be out at all hours without the slightest care from a fly, let alone our teachers. We stand in line for our food instead of it just appearing on the tables. And though there is a rivalry between us and another school, there is none apparent between dorms.
It is kind of a bummer that we cannot just fly around or play with unicorn foals, but I am pretty glad that my arm cannot be turned to jelly or start burping up slugs with a couple of words and the wave of a stick.
Who in their right mind wakes up at 3:30 a.m. to shovel crap? The answer: A select breed of human called the Equestrian. Yes, not only do we get up hours before the sun rises, but we also do it somewhat happily. Well happily considering that we usually do not go to bed until midnight or so. But hey, when you are in love (because that is what this is) things just do not always make sense. Equestrians love horses like Addicts love cocaine. On one hand it grows worse with every minute spent around these creatures, but on the other, extended time without horses can result in withdrawal. The life of an Equestrian is more than a balancing act of time between work, school, the barn, and a social life, it is balancing the amount of time spent with and without our beloveds.
Of course, it helps when you are getting paid to muck stalls, feed, water, and sweep. The money does go back to horses though; it is a costly addiction with the bill owed to new tack, board fees, and extra curricular, such as IHSA. It is all for the love of horses.
This weekend was our first IHSA western show for Region 3 Zone 8, my first show in over two years, first non-4H show ever. Our team came home with about 25 ribbons, two of the 3rd place and one of the 2nd place being my contribution. Some of the horses were nuts! We had horses that reared, horses that ran, and horses that could put their head in a myriad of positions except in your hand. A couple of us drew the only experienced western pleasure horse in the herd, Junior, who was a handsome fellow with a lovely frame and a careful gait. All three of the horses I drew, including Junior, were the better of the herd behavioral wise.
On the way home I decided that I want to do better. During each ride I found something that needed improvement, mostly little things and one major thing.With more experience I will be able to find exactly what is acceptable in the show ring and what needs to be hidden from the judge’s wandering eye. So, I made some goals for this year:
1. Place in every class
2. Win at least 3 blue ribbons
3. Attend and place at Regionals
They all seem pretty reasonable, right? There were 10 riders in my classes this weekend, six ribbons were placed, we have 3 more shows with ~3 classes each, I only need 35 points to qualify for Regionals ( I already have 13). I figure that if I ride more often and work on my equitation vigilantly during class, then it will not be too difficult to at least keep on track with everyone else.
For some reason I came to school under the impression that everything that I needed for my Fundamental Horsemanship class was on this list, but I was wrong. I ended up having to purchase all of the required materials, plus ones that were not on the list. it is not that I do not think that they will go unused, only that I was not aware of them. If I had known I would have experienced less sticker shock at least. There also seemed to be a resounding opinion among the girls that what they had brought with them was inadequate to the eyes of the teachers. I can see both sides of the issue; for the teachers: they know what works best, for the students: they (and their debit cards) are perfectly happy with adequate opposed to ideal. Even the girls who brought their personal horses had to buy things that were the type equivalent of what they knew already worked for their horse.
One of the students was also concerned about the “humane” aspect of some of the gear. Her views I found to be under-informed, but valid given what she did know. And it did make me question a little too. I have very little knowledge on bits and their purpose, but I am uneasy with the idea of riding a horse in a correction bit for three months, 6 days every week. When I think of a correction bit I imagine that we are trying to correct something the horse is doing by using it. But it is hard for me to comprehend finding so many things technically wrong with a horse that I know some girls will be expected to ride, even though they have had less than 5 hours on a horse in their entire life. Though, I do also know that my knowledge is very limited and that my teachers have years of experience. So at this point all I can really do is go with the flow and learn what they have to teach.
It is my hope that I can gain enough knowledge during the next year to be able to build a small business. At home there are a ton of things for sale that freshmen will need. The upside is that a lot of it can be bought used (ie. saddles, bridles, blankets, etc). I could buy some of these items, bring them back with me the coming fall, and offer them to the freshmen at a lower price than they could get here, but still make a little money myself. I will have to buy some (or possibly all) of the required English tack for my Sophomore year, which means that I will have to earn/save more money for that as well as tuition.
Another thing to keep in mind is that most of the equipment will probably last at least the entire four years, if not longer. And, therefore, I will not have to buy that item again in the coming years. It is an investment.
I came to Rocky with no friends, no family, and a vague idea of what my life as a college student might be like. Orientation fixes the first, gets you started on repairing the second problem, and changes what you thought you knew about the third.
Most people seem to cling to what they know and are scared silly by the idea that they will be “alone”. The truth is, ya, you are alone, but you are alone with 300 other people in the same boat. This total lack of relationships pretty much forces you to, at the very minimum, pretend that you actually want to meet another human being. Luckily the majority of people put more effort into building new friendships than the bare minimum. I met so many new people that I had their life stories coming out my nose; you can’t even remember half of the names you are told, even after spending 3 days around them. But you do what you can, because you realize that most of them are doing the same.
Another thing you realize is how much some of these random strangers seem to look like people you know back home. Like this guy from Sweden or something that just looks like my high school classmate Ryan. Or this girl Cynthia (not Cindy!) whose face appears to be quite similar to that of my dance buddy, Alyssa. It is both weird and comforting having these “familiar faces” around.
I had expected that most of the people I connected with would be horse people, but that was totally ridiculous of me, I should have known better. Of course I have a herd of fellow equestrians, but there are also teaching majors, an art major, a geology major, and a couple of others. Even in high school and junior high I was friends with different groups of people and then had a more core group of close friends. I’m not sure who the close friends will be yet, but I feel blessed to be getting to know all of the people who I do. Those will be the people who will be my family here as the years go on. And just like at home, I will probably have more than one family. There will be the horse family, who I can ask for riding advice and support (more of a working family). Then there will probably also be one of people who I go to for more basic emotional and relational help. It could turn out that the two blur together in a couple of places even. And even though I have no idea who my close friends will be yet, I have no doubt that I have an amazing base to build on.
It was my impression that classes would be different and similar in some ways to those from my past, the thing is though that I had them mixed up. In high school I knew that my teachers had friends among the other faculty, in college you see just how close they may actually be. An example would be my Art History teacher and my English teacher. I had one class right after the other in the same building, and during both classes both teachers were present in the room. They related memories and recognized information that the opposite knew, just like real people. Which was something that they verbally emphasized in their classes; that we should try to make sure that we treat them like humans, not like some other species that we couldn’t build a more natural relationship with. I think that I kind of knew this in high school since I ate lunch with one of my teachers almost every day and got to know her better, but I never realized it to such an extent that I have today.
There is so much more to learn in college than just what your teachers have on the syllabus.
Today was a mile marker in my academic career. I walk into my class and am just talking with everyone and eventually the teacher comes in. So he explains that he isn’t the Art History teacher and that he is just filling in so he really has no info for us. He ends up just talking about how teachers don’t always believe that their #1 reason for being at the school is to educate students and then he pops in the “F word”. It was so weird, because I have never in my life heard any of my teachers say anything more than hell and this guy was just spouting them out like it was some kind of adjective. I counted 6 of them through the 45 or so minutes that we were with him. It really isn’t a huge deal to me, his word choice is his decision, but it was such an odd experience.
Other than that the day was pretty uneventful. Browsed the library, went to an SAS (Services for Academic Success) meeting, chilled in my room, went to that above experienced class, chilled in the dorm again, went to a lunch meeting with the Equine kids (all girls except for the one guy from Maine who wears full on western wear), came back and took a nap, went to the clubs fair, chatted with some people (yes, I do have some social skills!), ate dinner, went to the gym and biked, had a floor meeting, chatted some more, went to this fire/live music thing where we “roasted” mallows on wooden skewers, chatted more, planned a swimming time for 6am tomorrow, then came back up to the room. And if I go to sleep now I will get nearly 8 hours in before swimming laps tomorrow! But I will probably pack for the camping trip first.