Chloe Loader shares her tips on balancing horses and studying.
I decided that the best time to get my own horse was in my final year of my degree, so I have had alot of questions on how I managed to balance them (and working part time!).
I took on Kitski as a full loan for almost two years, which were honestly the most challenging but rewarding years of my life to date. He’s an ex race horse who has recently turned 22. When I went to view him, I had just got
back from 2 months of solo travel, hadn’t ridden for a while (bar a beach ride in Bali!!) and Kitski was a bit of a pain on our first ride. He was strong and opinionated but I fell in love with him immediately. He helped me through my degree, moved with me to my first full time job and we had so many amazing experiences together.
Unfortunately, I decided to give Kitski back in June last year as I was moving to Spain for three months for work and then starting a masters as soon as I returned. I had thought I wouldn’t have been able to cope with having my own horse and doing a masters but it is a decision I question daily.
I have always struggled with my mental health, but horses have been a big help. While studying, a massive benefit to having a horse is that they force you to get out of bed every morning and get dressed, they read your moods, get you to exercise and are the best listeners. Honestly, sometimes
he added to my stress – it can be the littlest things that set me off, like worrying about what rug to wear or health worries.
On the flip side, he gave me routine, structure and reliability through uni. I
wasn’t going out drinking and partying too often because I had to be up to take care of my horse in the morning. I had a good, steady routine and two major things students lack – fresh air and exercise!
The most important thing to maintain a good relationship with your horse while achieving well academically is time management. If you’re someone who is likely to leave all your deadlines to the last minute and spend the 48 hours pre deadline in the library, having a horse at university probably isn’t the best option. If you’re good at organising your time or want a routine to support that, having a horse can create a really positive structure. Throughout my studies, I know I have to allot certain time frames to my deadlines, my horse and my work. Keeping on top of it has been difficult at times but I was very strict with myself – if a deadline was due, I had it done a few days before to give me time to check and edit. Having a regular routine can be really helpful, although many student schedules and shift based work can vary a lot. I always try to keep a fairly regular weekly schedule so I know what days I am riding and my aims. This is really important for training for competitions, sponsored rides, etc., as I could plan out a training schedule in advance.
Set realistic goals
While having a horse and studying at the same time is something you can definitely do, make sure to set realistic goals. You may need to accept that you will have time to ride but not enough time to train hard and compete. During my time with Kitski, I went out to a few show jumping clinics, took him cross country schooling and did some unaffiliated dressage. The most important thing for me is just to enjoy spending time with the horse. Yes, if you can go out and win lots of frillies, that is great, but remember that the most important thing is that you and your horse are both happy. It is such a shame when horse riding becomes negative with so much pressure on yourselves. I also competed for my university in friendly competitions against other unis, which is a good option if you aren’t sure about taking your own horse to uni as they often let you know the club’s horses.
Understand your budget
To help with the time management, you may opt for assisted/part/full livery for your horse, but remember this will cost a lot more. If you are a self-supporting student, you need to consider how much time you will need to invest in your horse and how much it will cost on any type of livery arrangement. Personally, I had to work throughout my degree and that self-supporting income paid for my living and equestrian costs, but my budget was still limited so I had Kitski on a DIY yard. This was made a lot easier by being on the same yard as a friend so we could each do just one end of the day but turn in or out both of our horses.
Students are known for being good at keeping costs down and I am master of this!! I took out loans for my rent and I earnt £520 a month, which covered all my living costs (food, petrol, etc) and Kitski’s costs. Meanwhile most of my friends spend more than that amount on their horses alone!!
Consider a part loan or share
Part loaning or sharing a horse can be a really great way to reduce the amount of time you need to spend on the yard and the amount of financial commitment. Before getting Kitski, I first part loaned a horse called Plaudie on a 3 day a week arrangement. I had a set monthly financial commitment and arranged the days on a weekly basis, on which I would ride and do the yard chores like mucking out, turning in/out, etc. I loved this and am committing to a similar agreement now while doing my masters (new horse, very exciting news!). The only thing to watch out for is to make sure the agreement works for both of you. Part loans can vary so much in cost and rules, so be sure at the beginning you’ll be able to take the horse out if you’d like to compete and that the owner is happy for what you want to do. It is always best to have a written contract in place so there is no misunderstanding!
Choose the right horse
When looking for a horse on full loan my brief was literally just ‘a horse’, but I will be the first one to say that probably isn’t the best outlook! Try to find a horse that will be the most suitable for what you wish you achieve. I wasn’t bothered about gender, colour, age, etc. Ideally, I wanted it to be sweet on the ground, but otherwise wasn’t too fussed. I had barely started looking when I was introduced to Kitski through a friend. He is super sweet to handle, but when he thinks he knows best, he is a complete diva! He’s perfect for me and I was incredibly lucky.
Looking back, I probably would have wanted a lower maintenance horse that could live out all year and didn’t need so much in terms of shoes and treatments, just from a financial and time perspective. Thoroughbreds are well known for having terrible feet, eat a tonne and always hurt themselves!!
Follow Chloe on instagram @lilmissclo