5 Ways to Manage the Transition Back to School & Away from the Barn

Summer is wrapping up. Academic life has returned, whether we like it or not. Nothing disrupts a routine quite like going back to school. Nothing swipes away freedom and flexibility the way classroom obligations do. This is especially frustrating for equestrians, who spend long summer days focused on their sport, traveling to competitions, practicing consistently, and quickly progressing in skill.

Riders often feel disheartened by the sudden change in routine. A busy schedule combined with the new load of responsibility can be overwhelming. With less time and energy to spend at the barn, it feels like any improvements made last summer will go to waste. But the student-equestrian lifestyle doesn’t have to be a bleak one. Let’s look at the ways to champion your upcoming school year.

1. Take a break

Just like our horses, we need a break from the physical and mental intensity of the sport. Use the return to class as a chance to rejuvenate. If you’re experiencing post-show season burnout, replenish your passion by stepping away from the stables  (distance makes the heart grow fonder).

Teenager with her horse, thinking about going back to school..

This approach can work in many different ways — either a total hiatus from the barn, fewer rides on weekdays, or shifting your priorities from intense training to just having fun with your horse. Use your “break” to reflect on your riding goals. Update your dreams. Spend more time bonding with your horse on the ground, appreciating him as an animal rather than an athlete.

2. Know your limits

Push yourself, but not too hard. Know when to say no and take that aforementioned break. Recognize when you’re burdening yourself with too many obligations. Are your ambitions and expectations sustainable, or just leading to exhaustion and emotional deterioration?

This is important. Taking on too much creates a temptation to cut corners. In the riding world, shortcuts are irresponsible, if not dangerous. Take care of yourself and your horse by setting reasonable expectations for a balanced school/barn life.

3. Think long-term and dream big

School is important, and it won’t last forever. Put academic life first today so that you can achieve your career goals tomorrow. Let horses be your motivation. Work towards the dream job that could facilitate a future with horses. You may feel like you’re missing out now, but it will pay off later.

Your grades matter. Geometry may feel irrelevant (and maybe it kind of is), but mastering a subject builds your discipline, problem solving ability, and critical thinking skills, which will come in handy for any path you choose to take, riding included.

4. Be strategic

Buy a planner. Sort out your time and identify the days and weeks when you can dedicate extra time to barn life. Use helpful apps like Prospeqs to stay on top of your riding goals by tracking progress and keeping organized notes.

Communicate with your trainer so that you’re on the same page with your horse’s care, riding expectations, and any struggles you’re having with balancing your time. Trainers are there to help!

Bring your homework to the barn. Make a productive space in the soothing horsey atmosphere. There’s no better office than the barn, right?

5. Consider homeschooling or online classes

Homeschooling is a growing practice and online school is burgeoning. These certainly aren’t options for everyone but they are amazing education alternatives for serious young athletes. Thousands of competitive equestrians have turned to online school, tutoring programs, and homeschooling for flexibility during year-round horse showing.

Likewise, competitive junior riders frequently work with their teachers to form a personalized class format so that students can succeed at their sport and learn simultaneously. Teachers may be more prepared than ever to facilitate online classes after the COVID-19 pandemic moved all learning online.

Back to school: You can do it

Don’t exhaust yourself, but never underestimate what you’re capable of.  Productivity breeds productivity. A busy schedule can sharpen your time management skills and overall discipline. Accepting new responsibilities, and taking them seriously, forms you into a strong, competent person. You may surprise yourself with how much you can take on. Embrace this challenge and enjoy the ride.