Horses and college???

Is is feasible to keep your own horse through college? Should you?

I’m starting college in the fall and I keep going back and forth about what I should do with my horse. Do I keep her (she would stay behind for the first semester) since I’ve had horses for the majority of my life and I have no idea what I would do without them? Or do I sell her to someone who has time for her?

I’ve had my 8 y/o mare for 3 years and she’s been a good support through all the high school stress (my high school is very fast paced and there’s a lot of pressure to take AP classes, I ended up taking 10, although not without sacrificing a lot of sleep and having some issues w/anxiety). That being said, my horse definitely needs to get out and have a job and I’m worried that I won’t have the time to take care of her and that she will end up sitting while I’m in college, which is not at all fair to her.

I did not take my horse to college. I missed him, but I could not afford to pay for board near college, when he could sit in a field and be happy at home. Honestly, I am not sure how I would have found time to spend with him anyway, as I was so busy with classes, ROTC commitments and part-time work.

Could you possibly find a lease?

I think this can totally depend on the person and situation. I know people who kept a horse and rode/ showed through college down to those who basically quit and didn’t ride at all until graduating. I didn’t own a horse and just rode when I was home on breaks or in the summer. My school did have an IHSA team, but I chose to concentrate on other extracurriculars that were related to my major (and also more affordable).

I’d take that first semester to settle in and figure out what sort of free time you’ll have, what other activities you might be involved with, and to check out the barns that are local to your school. Then consider finances, time, where you would keep her, etc. Also if she’s a good candidate for a part lease (and if you’d be willing to do that) that may take some time and financial pressure off while helping keep her in work. At that point you may have a better idea of what you want to do.

1 Like

Some factors to think about in this decision:
Who pays for horse now? Who will be paying through college? If you, then will this require a job throughout the school year to come up with the funds? How expensive is the area you’ll be keeping her?

Location of college
How expensive is the area? Is a car required to access the barn? If yes, can a car be easily accommodated (availability, parking, school rules, financial burden, gas costs, etc)? If college is far away from home, what will be done with horse between school years? Will your summer opportunities be limited because of horse? Is the area a hot horsey area where you could find a part-leaser to help out?

Time availability
What majors are you interested in? What are the lecture/tutorials/lab requirements associated with this major? How long does it take to drive to and from the barn so realistically what is your required block of time during a day to make it to the barn and ride? (do you require 2 hrs? 3 hr?)

College experience you’re looking for
Are you looking to join any teams or clubs (other then equestrian ones)? Are you hoping to get leadership experience on a club? Are you OK with compromising on social events and participation to make sure your horse is getting the attention she needs?

Post-college plans
Do your career ambitions lead to a big (expensive) city? Do you want to travel after school? Do you foresee life post-college being difficult to keep a horse? This one is basically, if you think you’ll need to sell in a few years anyway, think about whether it makes more sense to sell now - is your horse easier to place now due to age? training? current market conditions? Think about what option would maximize your horse having a soft landing.


I had a horse, apartment (20 mins off campus), and full time job while going to college full time. Though I did often have him half-leased, I had no life outside of work, school, and horse. Which worked out great for me, I have no regrets, but it’s not for everyone.


I sold my horse to go to university (part of the deal when I bought him) but I kept riding through school. I joined multiple clubs and full leased horses through my 3rd year. After that I catch rode horses for a year and my last (5th year) I was not able to ride. During my entire university experience I was active in multiple clubs, a heavy course load and worked at least half time. I don’t regret not having my own horse through that time.

I now ride with the trainer that coaches an university eventing team. Most students end up half leasing their horses or have our trainer ride 2-3 days a week. I would have not been able to afford that through schooling so I suspect their parents are heavily supporting them.

So many factors to consider - many have already been mentioned.

I know several young folks who took their horses to college, and board and horse keeping costs were less in the college location than around their homes.

It seems a long way off but what are you thinking you will do after college? Do you see any type of grad school or a possible move to an area where horse keeping would be less feasible?

If your mare has solid training and is good at her current job, 8 is a good age at which to sell. 12 is not too bad, but if she spends the intervening years doing less, that may not be good for her value - or for her mentally or physically.

Some of it may come down to how you feel about your connection to this particular horse - do you think you might regret selling her if you do so, or do you think you could fairly easily move on to a different horse when the time came for you to buy again?

I had mine for the first year while I was on the equestrian team so I could keep him at their barn, but start of Sophomore year after I moved to a different college it just wasn’t doable. Mainly because of finances and time commitments. It is possible to keep a horse in college, absolutely, but you have to figure out what you can afford money wise, time wise (are you going to be working a job or doing a full course load and/or want to have a college exerience - nothing wrong with that!), and what you will be willing to do to bridge the gap such as half lease. It was a very emotional time selling my guy and I did not want to do it, but sometimes you have to make choices in life that you don’t want to do.

1 Like

Completely depends. Finances are definitely the biggest consideration. I had my horses at home before college and sold all but one before leaving for school. Because boarding is significantly more expensive than keeping him at home was, bringing him with me was only possible because my scholarship covered my tuition, eliminating that financial burden.

I’m a graduating senior heading to vet school in the fall. I’ve had my horse here at a barn 20 minutes from campus since my freshman year. I’ve continued eventing up and down the east coast, got serious about dressage and took my gelding from 1st to 4th level during college, and am usually able to get out to the barn 5-7 days per week. My gelding, like yours, does best in really consistent work. On days I’m not able to get to the barn, I have a few friends on the equestrian team that jump at the opportunity to ride him.

I also took a very rigorous course load with three majors at a tough school, TAed, rode competitively for my school’s dressage team (heading to Nationals in a few weeks!), worked 25-45 hours per week at a vet clinic, worked at the barn to stay in shape and make a little extra money on the side, and stayed involved in a lot of clubs and extra-curriculars to boost my vet school applications.

It is 100% possible if you’re the type of person that can multi-task and manage your time well, and I have several friends that still ride and show while in college here. I also have friends that ended up sending their horses home because they didn’t have the time to ride him, and a few that made the decision to sell or half-lease them while in school.

It does start to get complicated if you plan to go home for the summers. I made the decision early on to stay in town year-round so I can keep working at my clinic, except for one summer when I went to NJ for a working student gig. Not all barns are going to be open to a horse leaving for 3 months every summer unless you’re willing to pay to hold your stall, so that’s something to consider.

1 Like

I did not have my horse in college. I pasture boarded her during the school year and rode over the summer. It was the smart thing to do, even though I hated leaving her at home.
Pros of not having a horse in college:
1)I saved a TON of money. THOUSANDS of dollars - reduced board, no training, no showing, no gas expenses.
2)I had time for work, school, and a social life. (I still rode at a friend’s barn: we just hacked around and occasionally I would school on her retired show horse if I wanted to tune up my skills).
3)I had the freedom to focus on some other interests and became a more well-rounded person - which helped in the job search and career choices I later made.
1)I didn’t compete and didn’t advance as much in my riding.
2)I missed my horse.
3)I may have partied a bit too much. Owning a horse was a responsibility that kept me from getting into trouble. Once that responsibility was gone, it took me a while to really grow up. YMMV with this one, it really depends on the person.

Now, I DO have a horse in grad school.
Pros of having a horse:
1)I’m advancing as a rider - regular training, regular schooling. And I can compete.
2)I’m learning excellent time management: have to have time for school, work, studying, and riding 5-6 days a week.
3)Riding is excellent stress relief/therapy, and having the responsibility of caring for my horse has kept some of the school anxiety at bay.
1)I am BROKE BROKE BROKE due to horse expenses. She eats up the majority of my budget every month - shoes, board, supplements, training, etc. My old saddle died and I had to get a new one: $2000 I didn’t have to spare.
2)I have limited time for other pursuits - I’ve given up two major hobbies/interests so I can have time to ride.

The biggest hurdle will be finances. But in reality, if there is ever a time to NOT have a horse, it is college. There are so many other things for you to focus on. Unless you are a nationally ranked competitor with a very good shot at going pro after college, you might be better off going horseless for a few years. What if you want to do a semester abroad? Or if you get an internship across the country?

I left my horse home during college. I rode during the summers, and occasional weekends. It was a relatively easy decision because she was older at the time and having some lameness issues. I rode on the IHSA team, so I got at least 2 rides in most weeks even without going home on the weekend.

I took her to law school, and acquired another while I was there. It found it relatively easy, but I didn’t do much outside of school and riding.

our youngest daughter took her horse her senior year, it was cheaper to keep the horse in College Station than it was in our backyard

older daughter went to school back east. She just took PE every semester as her school had riding as a PE class that she could take, so every semester she signed up

Congratulations! This is such a fun time. At the end of the day realize that if you do have to, or decide to take a break, you’re allowed to start back. For many of us, myself included, I was able to compete and keep a horse through some help from parents and a job! But know yourself, and college is a perfect time to figure out what kind of person you are if you don’t know!
Are you the type of person that gets anxious about school or exams and needs motivation to stay on task and self-study? These types of habits will make it difficult to juggle school, riding, and possibly a social life. But, if you are cool in these areas, and have the means to bring along a horse or keep riding, go for it! Several schools even riding clubs which is an awesome opportunity to make friends that have similar hobbies.
Research the barns in your area to insure you have a safe and appropriate barn for your horse!
Good luck!

Ah, to be young and heading off to school. I kept my horse at a small boarding/lesson place back home when I went to school. Luckily, my mom is a horse person as well and had no issues keeping her home (and is now back home with her, retired). I went to school 2 hours away, in an area where board was 3x as expensive as it was at home - it made more financial sense to keep her home than bring her. We lucked out since there was a high school girl who couldn’t afford her own horse and was in the lesson program. We pretty much gave her a free lease on my horse while I was at school. I would just text her if I was coming home for the weekend or breaks so that she knew she wouldn’t get to ride then. It worked out nicely bc I had a pretty fit horse come breaks and this girl got to learn from a made horse (although she tried taking my eventer to hunter shows and never did well). I was beyond lucky to have my parents fund her while I was in school and am forever grateful. Being horseless at school gave me a chance to pursue other things, like leadership positions in student council, sorority stuff, yoga, which was a nice little break.

I took my horse to school, and I also did crew (rowing). The secret was class scheduling. I tried to get all of my classes before noon, or in the evening. From noon - 3:00 was generally free for riding, and crew practice was 3:30-dinnertime.

Not sure if someone has mentioned this already, but you might consider if your college has an equestrian team. Oftentimes the coach will be happy to pay for all of your horses costs in exchange for your horse being used for the team. Just a thought. You would still be close to your horse, and your horse could be in consistent work…win win to me. Otherwise, maybe you could consider finding a barn close by and half leasing your horse out. I ended up giving up my horse when I went to college…still regretting that. :stuck_out_tongue:

I kept my horse. The deal was I could live at home and go to a state university, and my parents would pay for the horse, or I could sell the horse and go wherever I wanted. I chose to live at home and keep the horse. I did the same through law school, though he was on my dime by that point, and I had two horses, and I was working to pay for them…

I went to campus for class, and in law school to study in the library a bit, but otherwise I was at the barn or at home. But I know I’m an old soul, I didn’t have any interest in the parties or social aspect of college, plus I have some health concerns that make living with strangers challenging.

Horses kept me sane through college. I can’t imagine flipping my life upside down and losing that very crucial part of myself, just because. You’re already changing so much, especially if you live on campus, do you really want to change everything? Only you can answer that.

Depending on your major and course load, you have class around 15 hours a week, and likely an equal amount of time studying (depending on your study preferences). Do you need to work? Either as a work-study requirement or to help pay for school? That would likely be your biggest commitment, if that is the case.

It comes down to priorities. If you are pursuing a demanding major, if you need to work to afford school (or would have to work to afford the horse), those are big time commitments. Will you still have time for your horse? Will it be worth it to you if you don’t have that much time?

Hey guys, thanks so much for all your input! I ended up leaving my mare at home for now; she is leased to a girl who is learning to jump. I have taken a month off of riding (the longest I’ve ever taken a break since I was 8!), but am looking into taking lessons b/c I’m a lot less busy than I thought I’d be and I miss the barn more than I thought I would. I think I’m going to see how this year goes, and if I have enough time, maybe I’ll bring my mare out next year. For now, she’s well taken care of and that’s honestly the best I could have asked for and I’ll see her when I go home for breaks.


I kept my horse during the first two years of university undergrad and then leased him for the next two years. I think it’s a transitional time in life where a lot of folks end up taking time off from riding for the first time in their lives, if they grew up doing it.

I got back into riding after undergrad and then still had a horse when I began law school, but that didn’t last very long - I was way too busy and couldn’t focus on riding and first year law at the same time. I’m sure that wouldn’t be true for everyone, and I’m just as busy now with work as I was in law school, but I’m more motivated now and clear in how I want to schedule my time. College is as much a time of self-exploration and figuring out what you want to do in general as it is about education, so it can be hard to dedicate the time and commitment (in addition to the money) at that point in your life. The best thing about riding is you can always go back. Good luck with school!

I lived and breathed horses until college. I had a horse that carried me through the big Grand Prixes and was such a horse of a lifetime in so many ways. I sold him when I went to college (in part to pay for college). After I graduated I went full bore back into horses and have lived and breathed them ever since. I never regretted taking the time to focus on college (and all of the extracurricular activities I never had time for in high school) for a single minute. In fact, I’m super grateful that I took those years to step outside of horses, and don’t think I would have been able (or wanted) to continue the way I did unless I had taken the break. I still rode every time I came home (xmas/summer), and had several stints while at school helping to keep other peoples’ horses fit (at one point I was riding gaited trail horses), but for the first time it was when I wanted to, not because I had to.

YMMV, and at the end of the day you have to do whatever works for you. But I always advise kids to take the opportunity to fully embrace college and really focus on the unique experience college offers.

Best of luck to you!