The Post-Junior Years: Part 2

If you haven’t already, I suggest you start by reading The Post-Junior Years Part 1!


Having already discussed how I stayed involved with horses during my college years, I now want to tackle the early adult years, i.e. post college years. You know what I’m talking about, those years where you realize you actually have to find a job that relates to your major and you are panicking big time because you didn’t really think things through when you decided to study Egyptology/Bagpiping/Canadian Studies. You strongly consider bartending and possibly even exotic dancing when you realize that both of those ‘careers’ make more money then the entry level salary at a job that you actually majored in. I am looking at you biology major.  Anyway, I could go on and on, but the point is that you eventually realize you have to go back to school to do something that actually interests you and makes a salary above the poverty line, which is important because horses cost money.


post-junior years help me i'm poor


So how do you stay involved with horses during your post-junior years? Imagine that you are poor, like $50,000 in college tuition debt poor, and you have no real job to speak of (don’t knock pet setting though, it can be pretty great), and you realize you have to do MORE school if ever want to adult on a real level in a field you are actually interested in (in my case, healthcare). I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you how I did it.

I moved to Dallas, and went full on equestrian pro, or as pro as one can go while predominately teaching small children how to post the trot. My parents live in the suburbs outside of Dallas (about 40 minutes if there is zero traffic), so I did what any self respecting recent college graduate would do and I moved back in with them. Hello old room full of Breyer horses and horse show ribbons. I am back!


post-junior years hunky hanoverian
My all-time favorite student and I, I believe this photo was from not long as she started with me, at about 5 years old. I eventually helped them buy a pony, and she was jumping small courses by the time we parted ways!


Back to the horse part of the story- one of my best friends from college had landed a pretty sweet gig managing a barn and lesson program in the heart of Dallas. She knew about my prior experience teaching in college and hired me right away. I quickly grew a full schedule of lessons. Remember now, thanks to my past experiences, I was able to use what I had learned to be pretty successful right away. Parents loved that I was organized, and that I rarely cancelled or rescheduled lessons. Apparently, that had been a trend with instructors at the same facility in the past. My chaotic busy college years had taught me a few things about running a busy schedule, so I was able to juggle about 30-40 lessons a week along with part-time classes at the local community college. I made desperately needed money doing something that I probably would have done for free, because it allowed me to stay involved with horses. Part of the duties of being an lesson academy instructor included schooling the lesson horses. Although they might not have been fancy, it allowed for much craved saddle time, and I was actually getting paid to do it. I was lucky enough to befriended some of the other trainers at the barn, and got the opportunity to ride some really cool horses (including some top quality Saddlebreds and the cutest Hackney pony in the world).


post-junior years hunky hanoverian
One of our awesome lesson horses who I used to LOVE schooling, a lovely TB named Ike. He was actually owned by an independent h/j trainer at the barn, we just got to used him sometimes.


After a few years, I was able to start riding again a bit more seriously. As I met more people in the h/j scene, more opportunities presented themselves in the form of leasing various horses and getting back into taking lessons (instead of giving them!) My big girl job was finally taking off, and I was much more financially stable. I was able to petition USEF to reinstate my amateur status, and vowed to never teach another “up-down” lesson as long as I live. Not that I didn’t love it at the time, but it is definitely easy to get burned out after awhile.


Was this the ideal way to do things? Maybe not, but it worked for me. I loved every day that I got to spend sharing my love of horses with students and their families. I may not have been advancing my own riding skills at the time, but it was ok to put my own advancement on pause for a bit, because I was still involved with horses and the horse industry. Did I love going to class, then arriving at the barn just early enough to sneak in a 20 minute nap in my car before teaching 5-6 hours of lessons and then driving an hour home in the dark trying not to fall asleep? Not necessarily, but it did keep me sane. I certainly got to see a bit of what it takes to run a successful riding program, as well as what NOT to do. I think that my experiences during this time in life have led me to be a more conscientious customer myself, and possibly a more demanding one. I try really hard to be a good client, but I also expect a high standard of customer care and communication from my trainers, because I know it’s possible!


What about you guys? Did you stay involved with horses during the financially straining post-college years or take a break? What got you back into horses?


You may also like


  1. Enjoyed hearing your story! Personally I saved throughout college working in the summers as a decently paid tax intern and bought Stampede right after graduating with my Masters. I rode mostly in the summers during college, a couple leases and some random please ride this crazy horse mixed in, lol. I’m more of a relationship with horses type though so I went into buying Stampede after college promising him he could spend his life with me after my parents sold Phoenix when I started college. Then I just got lucky that Phoenix came back into my life later and I can have that promise with him as well.

    1. Love that! I always really enjoy hearing people’s journeys during the college/post college years. I think it is the most difficult time for people to stay involved with horses. It’s a whole different story when mom and dad aren’t helping anymore LOL!

  2. Wow, you were busy! I was so burned out when I went to college that I literally didn’t even tell people I rode for the first year. Around the end of freshman year I started to really miss it, so come sophomore year I found a h/j barn to take some lessons at. I had some half-leases in grad school. Really, I just got lucky because my parents kept Lucy, so I always “had” a horse… she just happened to live 1000 miles from me. I didn’t ride at all my fellowship year because job + location just weren’t conducive, but once I moved to Indiana is when it all seemed to fit back into place!

    1. That is awesome! Ya, my parents kept my horse from high school as well, but he was in his mid 20’s at this point in my life, so not exactly very rideable. That’s great that you were able to get back into it and the stars aligned. Why were you burned out after high school? Did you do a lot of competing in your high school years? Too stressful?

  3. I stuck with it- I got gifted my beloved lesson horse spring semester of my freshman year of college. Took him up to 1.0 m jumpers and (fully) retired him my second year of vet school. I leased two horses during vet school, and *stupidly* purchased a green OTTB 3 months into my veterinary internship. So now I’m 8 months into my internship with a retired horse, and a green OTTB. Smart decisions are not my strong suit… because, well, 2 horses, and student loans.

  4. I sold my horse my freshman year of college and was really upset about that so I took a break before getting back into riding regularly my junior year. After college, I moved to a new city and struggled to find a new barn to ride at. I didn’t get the “here ride this for me” rides like I used to back in high school and college because I didn’t have the time anymore. Some weeks I would ride once, some twice, and some not at all. I moved again to work at a jail and that schedule was shift work so it was even more difficult to find time to ride and there was absolutely no time for shows since I worked weekends. I was maybe riding once a month if I was lucky… and while I liked my job it was rough to not be involved with horses. About the time that I turned 24 I switched to a very flexible job (I would ride in the AM some days before work and just work late to cover the hours required) and got back into riding weekly. I have finally gotten to a point in my life that I can lease and I’ve done a couple shows and I am so grateful that all the hard work I put in to climb in my career path is slowly coming together. I don’t make enough to own a horse (and my home… I suppose I could sell my home for a cardboard box now, but due to prior jobs living requirements it was a necessity before), but my lease situation is wonderful and I am happy with the way things are. I have even finally started showing again and am ready to use that vacation time for some bigger shows. I also just put away all my tax refund into my “horse stuff” account because #adulthood 😉

    1. Not owning a horse has also been a very good plan (for me) as I was able to pay off my under grad loans and a secondary program loan last year at 30 years old. Now I can save up and allocate that money to horses.

    2. That is so great that you were able to get back into it through leasing. I think leasing it GREAT for the adulthood transition- having done the same thing, it worked super well. I think the commitment of horse ownership as a young adult is really daunting (time and financial), and leasing works so well if you get into a good lease. Haha- love that you use your tax refund for horses, that is definitely the definitely of amateur adult I’m pretty sure! Too bad I have to PAY on my tazes every year!!

  5. I was lucky and got a job right out of undergrad, moved my horse to my new location and never stopped riding. The budget was tight and I spent 3+ hours a day driving, but I wouldn’t change it for the world!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *