At 5:30 on a Saturday morning it's hard for your average college student to be inspired to do pretty much anything. It's a good thing then that the members of the Equestrian Team at Cazenovia College, and members of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association are anything but your average college students. While our peers are sleeping off their night of partying, we are stumbling around in the dark, trying not to wake our roomies as we pile on anywhere between 7 and 13 layers of clothing. It's winter in Cazenovia, NY, and we are headed to a horse show.
Somewhere in between all the classes, the cleaning and the overall horse show hysteria, we find many different sources of inspiration. We find it in the horses who work twice as hard as we do all day while numerous riders hop on their backs. They are always willing to jump one more jump, head into the ring for one more class and do what we ask of them without complaining. We find it while watching a particular teammate we admire whose skill motivates us to work that much harder. Or watching our friends have a great ride and celebrating a first win or a clean round on a tough horse.
We find it in discovering our own competitive spirit, and the fact that we just can't settle for anything less than giving it all we've got. Most of all I think we are inspired by our simple love of horses and riding and the dream that brought us here in the first place.
It is not an easy road, especially for those of us who come from families who don't know one end of a horse from the other. I can't count how many times I've had to explain what the word "equine" means to people who asked me what I had chosen for my college major. Oh, you mean not everyone knows that horse showing is a serious sport and that some people even make a living out of it? You're kidding!
It was somewhat difficult standing next to all the education or accounting majors at high school graduation, knowing that some of my contemporaries basically felt that my choice was not only odd, but also less than credible. No doubt there were also plenty of others who found us future equine majors interesting and our dedication amazing, but were more than a little surprised to discover that there was such a thing as the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association with more than 300 participating schools.
But the point is that being different then tested our inspiration, just as the long day ahead of us at horse shows tests it now. Only now friends surround us who face the same tasks and have the same love and passion for the sport. Our victories give us energy to celebrate at night, and we receive e-mails of appreciation from our coaches (who have more often than not become our friends) when it's all over.
As I look down the aisle at the end of the day, I find my favorite source of inspiration. Working alongside my friends, I see the last of our horses standing patiently in line while a veritable coalition of people strip off their tack and polos, pack their hooves and poultice their legs. I see scores of other riders watering, haying and generally cleaning up the wreck we have turned the place into.
It's not just the army of Cazenovia jackets running around the place; it's the way people see something that needs to be done, roll up their sleeves and dive in. We're working together; we are a team. And as the last bit of hay is swept out of the aisle, 13 hours later, it all makes sense to me.
Stephanie Germain graduated from Cazenovia College in 2005. For more information on Cazenovia College, visit www.cazenovia.edu. Visit the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association's website at www.ihsainc.com.