Young adulting, eventing

Not a college instructor here but someone who didn’t know what I wanted to do right out of high school and thus did the “community college, associate’s, transfer to a (real) college with an online program.” I know what you mean w/people being more motivated - saw some students like that myself but also saw a lot just kind of dabbling in the subject my bachelor’s was in almost as a hobby,too. (my BA was in a writing-related subject so I think it just attracted a certain amount of bored housewife types treating it like a hobby or with vague dreams of being writers someday - yet half of them were afraid of having their work rejected or criticized so…wonder how that turned out.)

Due to family and personal stuff going on, it took me…geesh, I started at the community college right out of high school and got out…maybe 2 1/2 - 3 years after I started there. I truly did not know what I wanted to be when I grew up. Throw in the BA as an online student and I finished college 6 years after high school

I don’t know how old most posters on here are but like, I feel like, as a late 20s millennial there’s this like, societal push for everyone to finish high school, go to college and have it all figured out. And I hated that then, hate it now and will hate it 'til the day I die probably. Like, senior night sporting events in school would always do this, “here’s so-and-so, child of Parent A and Parent B. So-and-so plans to attend blabbity-blah college and major in blah-blah and they hope to work as blah-blah-blah.” And I’ve heard of SO many people who I went to school with, mainly a grade or two ahead of me, who went to college, studied one thing, then changed it a million times. It’s like, you know, why not just tell us, hey, it’s okay if you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, you’ll have to figure it out, yes, but it’s okay to not know.

Like, me - for the longest time as a kid/teenager I wanted to be a vet because I loved animals (there was a brief span in maybe 4th-5th grade where I wanted to be a zookeeper). I’m also utterly horrendous at math to the point that basic Algebra was a struggle, so that probably wasn’t going to happen, haha. I ended up at a community college majoring in agriculture with no clue what I wanted to do beyond work with animals and now I’m doing something completely different that doesn’t (usually) involve animals.

I ended up frustrated when I did transfer to get my bachelor’s but that was more due to stuff with the school than anything else - I knew what I wanted and the school and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things (it was a small private college and I was an online student and in a lot of ways, in my experience, they didn’t really care as much about the online students as they acted like they did.) But I knew what I wanted then and I did what I needed to in order to get out with a degree and start working because by that point I was motivated by just knowing what I wanted.

I don’t know what I’m writing this tangent for, haha, I guess yeah, knowing what you want can be very motivating and also I don’t really think k-12 is always set up to build/foster/nurture a love of learning in kids. The schools I went to growing up, we’d start state standardized testing as young as like, 3rd grade, so…yeah.

I grew up in less focused times for sure. I don’t think many folks now or then really knew what they want to do (or be) at 18 because we all have limited exposure to the adult world whether we come from the bottom or the top or the middle, whether we have pressure to succeed or come from a long line of slackers and mediocrities.

It really helps if you have a true talent or ability that slots into an existing discipline and career path, and if you love that ability. A math whiz or a truly talented writer for instance can go through a major and find a field of work that they maybe never knew existed. It’s harder for folks who are good but dont have an exceptional talent and obsession that lines up with a career trajectory that can carry them through the formative years loving their subject.

And as far as online creative writing courses at a small private college? Oh I can imagine. I was thinking more of adults going back for teaching certificates or xray technician or nursing etc where they are really focused on the next step.

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Agree 100%.

It’s a lot of money and time to dedicate to something you aren’t sure about. And (in my case, at least) if the desire isn’t really there, the effort is going to be pretty lackluster.

Also, I don’t really think everyone needs to go to college. I’ve spoken to people recently who are going to a trade school for welding and fire college. Their employment outlooks are good. And they’ll end up making decent money.

Mine wasn’t really creative writing actually - it was a degree called professional writing that was basically a hybrid of creative and technical-type writing, it was the first year (and then second year by the time I graduated) that the school adopted the program and I was tiiiiiiiccccked off anyway because I’d gone in planning to be a journalism major and the school wasn’t open about the fact that that degree was being phased out when I enrolled fully intending to major in that subject. So, yeah.

Anyway, I got through college, have worked in hands-off elements of the horse world, writing about them (will not say more than writing - I don’t believe I’m well-known, my ego isn’t that outsized but I have a pretty solid social media presence off COTH forums that’s connected to some of my work and I’d like to keep my COTH handle a bit separate from that (at least until I’m completely out of horses in that regard) so I can maybe be a tad more opinionated on here than elsewhere sometimes :wink: ) and other things, and I just realized it wasn’t for me. So, I have my sights set on a “real world” job I’m passionate about and I’ve gradually made an inroad in that field.

I think, really, people just need to be reminded that hey, you don’t have to know what you want at 18. College is great if you can do it, if trade school is your thing that’s great too, (but I don’t like seeing trades pushed too much either, we need to promote them but I feel like some people like pushing trades over college (not that I’m saying anyone on here is doing that) to make trades out as the superior choice - I’ve seen one too many old people relatives on FB sharing memes about people majoring in “underwater basketweaving” - there’s room for both, need for both. Not everyone’s cut out for a trade, nor are we all suited to college. One can be promoted without diminishing or disparaging the other.), I guess, basically, for most of us lucky enough to have horses in our lives and live in the US/Canada/other “first world” countries, we’re lucky - we can more or less choose how we want to live and so, just remember, life is what you make of it!

Edit to add: That’s not me making a slight at trades - both are necessary and I think should be equally promoted as options, but I kinda feel like we all, societally, got where we are now with people going to college not knowing what they want by pushing college as one size fits all and I don’t think I want to see what happens if that mistake gets made again but in a different direction. :slight_smile:

Funnily enough, I had classmates in my courses who had been in medical fields and then realized it wasn’t what they wanted and were there, studying writing. Couple of them I think were interested in doing the self-published book thing but I truly think, and I hate to sound so judgy towards them, that a lot of them really didn’t have a strong plan for making anything happen in a career sense as writers. A few of them were bored housewife types, sure, but there were a few my age or a bit older and I remember one who kinda indicated on discussion boards and the like that she’d gone into some medical thing (may’ve been similar to x-ray tech - she wasn’t, none of them were, full-blown doctors or anything) because her parents just didn’t think being a writer was at all practical and so she did what her parents thought she should do and wasn’t happy.

Thanks for the input, everyone! There’s honestly not a ton of 20-30 year olds actively competing in the sport (lower levels at least, in my area) so it’s really great to hear all these stories.

Luckily I am over the college/masters degree hump and don’t have to worry about that, have had my first job a couple years, now just figuring out how to spend the mid 20s. Grow hard now in the career, or follow the horse passion while also growing the career (probably a bit slower?).
After being really involved with horses for so long, took a year off which made me question everything (of course!) but get new perspectives too. That’s partially why I wanted to get some input before trying to dive back in again. It’s great to hear and read so many creative ways of keeping horses in life without giving up career, all of the money, right away. Sounds like there’s no perfect/right way to do it, but when you want it enough, you find a way :slight_smile: I think we all can agree animal sports give some type of unexplainable joy and stability despite the unstable and crazy nature of it all. That sort of contradictory unstable stability is what I think helped me keep my feet on the floor in college, and work hard to get a good job to do the stuff I love! Either way, really enjoyed the stories so far, and advice, keep it coming!

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Trades can be a solid career but at least where I Iive they require 2 to 4 years post secondary education and decent high school math. And focus and the ability to work hard, and a lot of common sense intelligence. Becoming a plumber or electrician or auto mechanic or farrier is a big commitment and not something you just stumble through.

I’d be ticked off about that program switch too. A good journalism program, at least 30 years ago, got you internships and job placements in local newspapers and really focused on the industry. Creative writing is a great boost for the 10 per cent of students that enter with actual talent. Professional writing, not sure what that is :slight_smile: it could be anything the program desired.

I’m in about the same boat as you. I’ve graduated, got a good paying job, and took a couple years off competing, due to health issues with my horse as well as trying to figure everything out.

I did buy a 2nd horse and half way retire my older guy with health issues (not old, but unsolved health issues). The younger horse is ready to get going doing “real” shows, lower level recognized events. Now someone is trying to give me a 3rd horse, but not sure I can push having a 3rd. He’s the same age as my young guy and similar bloodlines/personality to both of my guys, so he would fit, but I don’t have time for 2, let alone a 3rd.

I’m an engineer, so not much “growth” besides into management. Also trying to decide if I want to stay with current company in current location, or go somewhere new. Leaning towards somewhere new, but where, I’m not sure. I currently live 5+ hours from “home”, but that doesn’t bother me. My biggest issue currently is making new relationships. I am very single with 1 dog and 2 horses. I currently rent a room in a house with 2 housemates, so very affordable. But do I want to buy a house (not in this current market with questioning if I want to stay here). But how do I make new friends? I am still struggling with that. I have quite a few middle school/early high school aged girls at the barn that I think look up to me, but that’s not the only relationships I need. Work is mostly older people with families, so those aren’t my relationships I am looking for either.

I was lucky to find a boarding barn that is very affordable, yes I would like more amidities, but I can make due, and for the price of boarding, I can afford to take more lessons or do more shows than I have done before (since I am not on my parents budget). Or trailer out to better facilities when needed.

Not sure I am any help, but I’m someone else trying to figure it out too.


I am in my 60s, so life in MY 20s was very different.

I basically stopped riding from my second semester in college, through grad school, and starting my career. I started riding again when I was 27, and bought a horse the following year. Yes I was rusty, but I quickly caught up with myself.

If you really want to ride, there is plenty of time once you get “real life” sorted out.

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It’s a thing, I’ve heard of a few schools that have it but bet your butt had I known they were phasing my major out when I enrolled I’d have reconsidered my choice of school. Fortunately I’ve been in the working world juuust long enough (and I’m fairly good at what I do, or I’d like to think so, that it doesn’t matter - plus there’s tons of trainings and the like if you know where to look), that no one really cares what I majored in at this point anyway, but yeah, I was ticked. Ironically actually, yeah I’m trying to become a journalist - will it pay me enough to be super-involved in horses, probably not? Do I still want to do it? Yup. I’m kinda going in knowing it won’t, unless I’m darn lucky, be a forever career - but it’s also the thing where I’m like, “I don’t want to be sitting around when I’m 90 wondering what could’ve been.”

Can I just say I’m also so happy to see so many people reminding all us younger folks there’s plenty of time to figure out riding once we get life in general sorted? It’s just refreshing in a way - I think because I’ve spent a couple of my post-college working years n the equine industry (hands-off roles) around people who have horses in their lives and always feel a bit like I’m missing out or like I’m no longer quite a “real” horse person - not even because of anything people say or don’t say but just because when you’ve gotten that immersed in it and you’re not active in horses yourself, and you’re around so many people who are (and not always high level or pros, plenty of ammies, too) it just feels like you’re missing out. And I’ve kind of taken the “horses will be there when I can finally afford them and really want them again” mindset but it’s nice to see that it does eventually work itself out! So, I guess, thanks for this thread!

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I’m 23 so embarking on this journey as well haha. I’ve always done everything for the horses, picked a career path with least resistance to making decent money quickly - without graduate school and excessive student loan debt. Honestly it’s tough sometimes. I make good money and I still bust my a$$ to make it work with “side hustles” and working at the barn. Luckily I have a super supportive bf because I am gone all the time. I admit it would be a lot more difficult without him holding down the fort at home.
It’s easy to keep the momentum when the shows are going well and things are falling into place. The sacrifice seems worth it, but it can come tumbling down very quickly with injuries, debt, etc and you’re left wondering what do I even have to show for it. I guess my only advice is to either take it easy and realize you can’t do everything or go all in. Only go all in if it really makes you happy, but don’t forfeit other aspects of life if you think you’ll regret it. I racked up a lot of credit card debt trying to afford the shows, lessons and vet bills in college. I wouldn’t say I regret it as I’ve paid off a lot of it now. I was doing the best I could with what I had and I didn’t know how much longer my nice horse would stay sound for. I still want to have it all of course, but I’m learning to not burn myself out in the process!

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Oof, it is tough, tough, tough. Before fall 2020, my last event was in the summer of 2007. It wasn’t my intention to take that long of a break, but so it goes. 17 year old me would have been pissed if I learned that was my last event for 13 years. I rode lightly in college through my mid-twenties, and I didn’t ride at all in my late twenties. At 30, I got back into it with once-a-week lessons for six months. Then a half-lease for a year, and now I have a full care lease. I plan to buy something this time next year. (I’m nearly 32 now, have 10 years on my career as a brand designer in tech, eventing at BN on a tried and true TB.)

In short: “the gap” is very real. But in retrospect, I don’t regret it. I got to build my career in a way that’s meaningful and sustaining for me (more on that in a sec). I moved from coast to coast and got the experience of living in incredibly vibrant, diverse places. I took time to think for myself and learn my own values. I traveled. I made great friendships I may have otherwise not had. Does it suck getting back on a horse and realizing you have a quarter of the skill you used to? Absolutely. But! The good news is that horses are always there. You’ll get it back.

But anyway, here’s some advice I’d give to my younger self if I wanted to prioritize horses:

  • I’d say part of it is to calibrate your expectations. What does contentment with horses mean to you? If you have to compete, make it work, but if you realize that you just need to be around them to enjoy them, be comfortable with having your serious riding goals on the back seat for a sec. Just get on and take it for the therapy that it is.

  • If you can, see if you can dip your toes into riding again vs. full throttle. Like others have said, the half-lease was a wonderful way for me to have a connection + consistency but none of the responsibility. Likewise, in my early adult years, I just called sales ads and told them while I can’t buy their horse, I can exercise in exchange for light barn work (feeding/mucking a couple of times a week). You’d be surprised by how often that worked. A trainer can also be a great resource and connect riding opportunities for you.

  • Workwise, see if you can work remotely on riding days and ride in the morning. Having the flexibility to ride in the mornings is huge. Mine is a reverse commute, and my trainer doesn’t mind early lessons (8 am). I can log on between 10:30–11, and I work till 7–7:30. This is great because you still get a little bit of an evening, should a friend want to meet up for dinner. It is an immense privilege, and sometimes I’ll pick up a few hours on the weekends just to make sure I’m covering my bases. Since you’re earlier in your career, just make sure that work + learning is the priority. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

  • Find a schedule that works for you and stick to it. Lessons are on M/W. His training ride is on T. Off day on Th. 50% of the time, I can ride on Fridays if I don’t have anything major to wrap up at work. I usually ride both weekend days. I try to stack as many meetings as I can on T/Th and leave MWF as deep work days.

  • Buy things second-hand, have tack swaps with trusted groups.

  • Assuming that you do pay off your credit card balance every month, try to put as many horse things as you can on your CC, so you get points for fun, non-horsey extra-curriculars like plane tickets and hotels. Do not go into any CC debt. That’s one thing I’ve been able to avoid my entire life, and I’m so grateful.

  • See if you have any skills inside or outside the barn that can help offset your riding. Can you half-lease your horse? Work Sundays off of board? Braid? Get free schooling for volunteering? Freelance your professional services? I freelance my entire horse fund, which is about 20 hours a month. It’s one evening/morning out of my week (for my schedule point above, it’s usually Mon PM/Tue AM). I designed it so it’s high-impact work but low-creativity, so it isn’t mentally stressful. It’s the kind that I can kick up my feet, pour a glass of wine, and watch Parks & Rec to.

  • See how many free/low-cost things you can do with friends. The $40 brunches are never worth it. Neither is the $25 Uber home. Have game nights, go to trivia, book clubs (or my new favorite: cookbook clubs), park days with lawn games, bonfires, hikes, camping, kayaking, run clubs, walks, concerts. For me, I learned that nothing interesting happens after midnight, and it’s easier to tap out early.

  • Get roommates. Just having low overhead for yourself feels so good!

  • As you get promotions, etc., keep living at a low cost of living for a while. It’s easier to do it when you’re young, and you can stash back that extra cash for your emergency fund/retirement.

  • Enjoy the journey. Don’t say no to the cool thing you want to do because of the horse. The horse will be there, and he’s happy whether you’re riding him or not. :wink:


So as a current 24 year old, I’ll echo others who have said horses will always be there. My junior self would be very disappointed with my current horse life. Even in college, I actively competed in IHSA as well in the adult eq and eventing in the summers with my own horse. But when I graduated, I realized that I really didn’t know where I was going to end up or what I would be doing, so I sold my horse.

What I’ve come to decide is that my life goal, though it may seem small, is to be the nice amateur lady at the barn with her one or two nice horses. And while it may not happen immediately, it will happen. At the moment, I’m lucky that my trainer is nice enough to let me to hack a horse when I’m home about once a month to get my fix, and I help if she wants at shows.

I will say that if you’re not able to actively ride, I think it’s really important to find another activity to do while not riding. For example, I’ve started cycling and I’m building up to an ~200 mile ride in August. Especially for goal oriented people like riders, having other goals is necessary. With something else to do, I still miss riding, but the cycling also keeps me busy enough that I’m not longing for it quite as much.


Thank you for saying this! I am super goal-oriented too and it mostly expresses itself in my riding, so when I can’t do that I end up quite adrift. It’s helpful to hear from a kindred spirit. I’m currently injured so I signed up for an online community college class in a subject that’s new-ish to me. It might be slightly useful professionally, but mostly I just needed something to work on and work towards. (That attitude also explains why I have a Masters and JD that I don’t use, whoops.)


I don’t do the more goal-oriented stuff with biking but yup, hard agree to find things to get involved with and stay busy! My real-world job keeps me fairly busy, but I usually make time to at least take a walk in the morning before I start actually working (I think especially since I’ve worked from home/remote from coffee shops and the like - freelancer here, well, freelancer trying to find full-time work at some point - even pre-pandemic, some kind of workout in the morning just helps give me a little mental division between “sitting around eating breakfast” and “work mode.”). When I have time, I love riding my bike or swimming (before I started riding horses at 10 I was really into swimming - never got into it competitively, though. Biking, I’m just working to find good routes in my area for longer, 10+ mile rides - I live in a smaller rural area so not a ton of trails and you gotta watch for traffic.)




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Totally agree with those on here saying that it’s a good idea to pick up something else to occupy your time when you’re not riding!! When I took a year long break from it I started doing agility with my dog, now i’m unfortunately hooked on that too and don’t want to stop even though I’m also very busy with my new horse so I’m struggling trying to continue to do both :joy: luckily there’s very few hobbies that are as demanding as horseback riding.

Also this is kind of silly but crucial for people our age: if you have a bunch of friends who are going to get married and expect you to be a part of their wedding, bachelorette, shower, etc. DEFINITELY factor that in to your budget planning. I bought my horse last fall and now a ton of my friends are starting to get married and my credit card is feeling the stress of a couple unplanned vet bills + bachelorette parties, flights, airbnbs, presents, etc. I lowkey hate wedding culture so much but it’s unfortunately a reality that girls in their 20s and 30s have to deal with and plan accordingly lol. I forget that most people don’t have to keep their savings untouched for vet bills and actually can use them for things like this!


My best advice is “everyone has a different sized plate”…some people will easily juggle all of it (life + horses + relationships + etc)…others will not. Figure out the size of your plate. You make time for what you want to make time for.