I have just finished my four-year under-grad and similarly funded my horsey habit throughout college. I would first be clear with yourself what your riding goals and what your priorities are. There is nothing wrong in wanting to focus more hours on school work, or want to get involved on campus first, but there are several ways to keep riding in school and still be involved IF you’re willing to work your butt off.
I’ll start by saying I was involved actively in my sorority, involved in organizations on campus, kept up my GPA, and rode 4-6 horses a day by the end of senior year.
First, financially I did stalls and barn work my first year. I’ve learned (usually) barns that try to avoid paying someone and have college students work off their board by doing barn work don’t always have the best care. But, I was also at my barn every day so was vocal if I saw things that needed to be done. This allowed me to keep my horse at Auburn. To earn money for competitions I rode other horses and taught lessons. This started very grass-roots. I taught tiny kids on my one horse, rode anything I could sit on.
I chose to do this at first, rather than take a part-time job , one because I was an aspiring instructor myself and the pay per hour was much more. I could teach two lessons and ride 2 horses, and make more than my peers working 10/$10 hours a week.
I loved it. I just found a system that worked. My truck always had so many changes of clothes. For instance freshman year, (I took morning barn shifts so I could have a social life in afternoon). 6/7 am feed. a Class at 9-11 ish. Go ride. Come back for my afternoon classes. Then, I’m done for the day and can soicalize/study, etc. Because I taught/rode client’s horses I could schedule to do this all on one afternoon, leaving my other days free. Or, I would do it all on a Saturday morning. As I kept teaching I was able to drop feeding shifts, and make more money teaching and riding. At that point I would sign up for the earliest classes possible, so I could teach in afternoon. I was usually done by 5, and could still make campus events and study.
Now. most of my peers liked sleeping in until 9/10. Sign up for mid-day classes. Well, of course then, at 2/3pm you would need to still ride, study, work, etc. That is hectic. Time management was critical.
For me it was worth it, I earned enough to take a 6-month break after freshman year to take a working student position. It was amazing.
Some fun tips: Dry shampoo was my best friend. Fortunately everyone in my classes wore no makeup, huge shirts, and nike shorts. So I could do a quick change at barn, dry shampoo on my drive back, and run to class. If you keep your grades up and go to classes, most professors if you go a week in advance to tell them, will accommodate you if you have to take a week to go to a horse show. I may miss a class to take a horse to the vet, or for whatever reason, my professors all knew me personally. I sat in the front row, was involved, they knew I was trying and therefore let me makeup a test or scale my grade up a point.