Seven months away from graduation, and I’m starting to stress about leaving the comfort of the Penn nest. The college lifestyle is certainly no preparation for a professional schedule. If you’re lucky, you’ve become a master of PennInTouch and conveniently organized your classes so that you’re never up before 11 a.m. and spend every Friday nursing your hangover. But, come next year, that shit just isn’t gonna fly.
Freshman year, I spent more nights drunk than sober, showing up to my Freshman Seminar in the clothes I wore to Copa the night before, reeking of liquor and trying desperately to keep my eyes open through round table discussions of Socrates. As a product of a strict New England boarding school, I had limited opportunities to get buckwild prior to Penn, and certainly attempted to make up for lost time. But, at some point during my sophomore year, I decided to step it up and get involved in some extracurricular activities that didn’t involve shots of Banker’s Club.
Something many never guess about me: in high school, I spent 6 days a week going straight from class to the barn. Many equestrians abandon the sport by the time they reach the age of consent (it’s super–expensive, and exorbitantly so if you show), and I departed for Penn with no intention of ever sitting in a saddle again. My tack trunk sat dormant in my garage for years, half–chaps gathering dust while I liberally abused my liver. But, when I came across a table for the Penn Equestrian team at the 2009 Spring Activities Fair, I decided to join and compete in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association.
The IHSA is different than anything else in the equestrian world. A true test of skill (and not how much money you have to spend on a horse), IHSA shows require you to hop on a horse you’ve never seen before in your life and, without even a couple of minutes to get a feel for what you’ve got, enter the ring and jump a complex course of 8 fences.
Showing in the IHSA has taught me more life skills than the whole of my academic career combined. I spend most of my Friday and Saturday nights popping a Tylenol PM so I can catch my 5:00 a.m. horseshow wake–up call. I have to plan all my school work in advance to make up for the 12 weekend hours I spend ringside, assisting my team mates with my co–captain (and oftentimes, the savior of my sanity). But most importantly, I’m forced to deal with exactly what life hands me. Can’t ask for an extension, can’t bullshit my way through it then duck out the day before the drop period ends. So, will I balk when a pile of paperwork with a 24–hour deadline drops on my desk next year? Nay, my friends, nay.