At the conclusion of the 2018 AQHYA World Championship show, many competitors hung up their bridles for a new challenge: college.
In fact, Gracie Hare left straight from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virgina. Hare, an Animal Science major, is attending the school because its Prevet track program is the second best in the country. Though she has found her new home, she had to leave one behind. Right after Youth World, she sold her horse, Credit Machine A.K.A Mac, because she was unable to keep showing through her college career. “I really wanted to focus on school and my major and balancing such rigorous classes and traveling to horse shows wasn’t really going to work,” says Hare.
Despite her firm decision to put academics first, she misses riding very much and even misses California, which is causing her to have a bit of a rough first year away. However, she knows in the future when she’s old enough to afford it, she will have another horse. With the end of the semester so close she is ready to head home for the summer and even visit Mac.
Cristin Coombs is ready for the approaching summer just like Hare. She’s excited to take a break from the college work and sit down and relax. Coombs attends the University of Portland, majoring in Nursing. She chose this particular college because of how beautiful the campus is and the relative closeness to home. Unfortunately, she too, had to sell her horse after Youth World. After competing in the AQHA circuit for twelve years, Coombs had a very difficult time giving it up. Yet, her amazing first year in college made it all worth it: “It’s hard to adjust to the college life at first, but after a month or two I got the hang of I’ve already formed close bonds with friends and my best friend actually showed horses as well. It was so funny because we competed against each other at shows and had no idea who each other were! Now we are inseparable!”
Nearly halfway across the country from Coombs sits Sarah Finkle at the University of Georgia, but not for long. Finkle will be transferring to University of California, Davis for her sophomore year and on. It was a difficult decision for this rider because she fell in love with UGA from the start, saying, “I committed here (UGA) my junior year and was a Dawgs fan from day one, so the decision to transfer was a long and hard one. In the end, UGA is just too far from my home (San Francisco) and from my family and friends.
The team at UGA just wasn’t the right fit for me. I decided to transfer to UC Davis because of the outstanding academics and the awesome head coach, Jessie Weisinger, who has an incredible vision for the up and coming team.”
In the end Finkle knows it’s the best decision for herself. She will continue her major of Political Science at UC Davis as well as riding on their equestrian team, refusing to hang up her bridle. An easy decision for this rider, “
I’ve been riding my whole life and the idea of not doing it was out of the question.” She knew riding needed to stay in her life, and she couldn’t imagine going to college and not being on a team. However, showing on a team compared to showing as a youth for AQHA, is a completely different experience. “It’s almost like collegiate riding and industry riding are two different sports!” Finkle even goes as far to say.
Freshman Maggie Cincotta went on to explain how these meets go when showing on a collegiate team: “Showing on a team is great ‘cause you not only have a team of sixty-four girls supporting you, but also your entire university. The format is very different. You play another school, and you and another girl draw a horse and you have four minutes to get on it, warm it up, then you have to go show it.
Whoever gets the higher score (on the horse) wins the point for your school.” Cincotta precedes on to express the busy life these collegiate riders go through. “We workout at 5:30 in the morning, go to class, go to practice in the afternoon, then have study hall and tutoring after that.” However, she goes on to say that her college, Baylor University, provided many resources so these athletes can stay on top of their school work.
Their Division 1 equestrianteam is one of the main factors that brought Cincotta to this school, but so did their reputable nursing program. Like Coombs, Cincotta had an amazing first year. She made the dean’s list and was a starter on her team. She also made new friendships that she is dreading to leave behind as the end of the year closes in.
Although they may be spread across the nation now, having their own unique experiences, these California natives still have things in common. They will never lose their love and passion for horses, and the excitement to return home and see the beach!