So, you’re off to college. You have chosen a school, picked a degree, found out who your roommate is, toured campus, picked classes, and packed all of your stuff. What next? A lot of horse people choose to take their horse to school with them. Just as many choose not to. There are many pros and cons to taking your horse to college with you. There are also some decisions to make before you load Fatty McButterpants or Nervous Nelly onto the trailer to travel with you on this new adventure.
First, did you check to see if the college you are attending has school horses or offers riding classes as part of the curriculum? This is important because some schools that have school horses also offer boarding. If they offer boarding sometimes they will offer a usage exchange where you can get a reduced boarding rate if your horse can also be used as a school horse. While this is a viable option for some, note that it means you have to watch other people ride your horse and in most cases, can’t interfere. For a lot of people, watching others ride their horse with no say in how the horse is being worked can be too difficult. There are also many rules when a college offers boarding such as; strict barn and riding hours, stall cleaning rules, turnout rules, tack storage, and trailer storage. Also, be aware of vaccination and shipping protocols that are required at a collegiate facility. Sometimes because of shows, clinics, and classes, college barns can be quite busy! As with any boarding facility do your homework. If there is not on-campus boarding, many college’s with equine programs keep lists of local boarding barns. This can be a huge help to you if you are moving in from out of state.
Next, decide if the cost is really worth taking your horse. Is it more expensive to bring your horse or leave it at home? Do you REALLY have time to see your horse EVERY day? A lot of college freshman THINK they have time, but then find out just how demanding school is. It isn’t fair for your equine companion to suffer because you have lost interest or just don’t have the time to devote to everyday care. If the college has school horses, it’s a lot easier to just dote on them and ride in classes or on a team so you get regular lessons. Then you aren’t tied down with an animal to care for as much as yourself! For many, college is the first time they get to live on their own with their own schedule. It’s a big adjustment!
Finally, make a list of the pros and cons for yourself regarding taking your horse to school. Do you have a car in case you board off site? Do you have money saved for emergencies? Have you done your research and found a local veterinarian and farrier to use? Have you made plans for feed and hay since where you go may use different forages than you are used to? What about blankets and tack. Do you have everything you need to ride and winter at your new home?
These are just a few basics to help aid in the decision making process of horses and college. Deciding to take your horse with you to college is just as big a decision as deciding where to go to school (said from a horse person’s viewpoint). The best advice anyone can give is to tell you to investigate all possible situations to give yourself and your horse the best possible chance to be successful in this new venture.