Where do the horses go over the summer?

A look into leasing a UF horse

By Larissa Holmes

When the last final is over, everyone can’t wait to leave. While most students are packing up their dorms, students in the equestrian program are packing their lockers for the summer. Those who brought personal horses are also packing up for the long drives home, horses in tow. But what about the horses that get left behind?

Of the 150 horses that live in the barn during the school year, only 30 remain during the summer. Some are sent off to summer camps to provide positive experiences for young, growing horse-lovers. Others get sent to live outside, exhibiting their natural tendencies, for the whole summer. Still, others, are taken home by students themselves who are looking for horses to help them progress in their riding careers.

Parker Nash, a sophomore, took home Rheiny, who belongs to the director of the English equestrian program, Nicole Thungen. With his summer mount, Nash was able to begin riding at training level. Training level is just one of the steps in a dressage rider’s competitive career where they can develop the necessary skills to move up to advanced level movements.

“I grew so much as a rider,” Nash comments, “And I just had a lot of fun with her.”

With Rheiny, Nash had the chance to clinic with a well-known German dressage trainer for two days and then Lisa Wilcox, former Dressage Olympian, for another two-day clinic. In addition to perfecting his riding and style, Nash also took Rheiny to several shows, scoring in the 63 and 64 percent range. Each competition, his scores became better and better.

In addition to reducing the population for the summer staff, students taking horses home provide a service to the University in that the horse will be kept in shape throughout the summer. Those who plan to return in the fall sign a contract giving them permission to take a horse-friend home as well as pay a leasing fee of $300. While a few are only looking for a companion and a partner to take lessons and learn on. Others chose to enter horse shows and compete with their horse for the summer.

Chole Johnson, a junior, took home and competed with an experienced jumper, Truly. She was given the chance to compete in the adult equitation classes and adult medal classes, placing high in both categories. She even got the chance to travel to the Ariat National Medals and show there. It was the first time Johnson had the chance to compete with such a competitive and willing horse.

“We bonded over the summer,” Johnson says of the experience, “She taught me a lot more than I thought she would.”

Another student, senior Megan Jurica, got a similar experience out of her summer when she took home Cello, another experienced jumper. With the help of her trainer, a Findlay alumna, Jurica was able to compete on the A circuit—one of the highest levels in the show jumping world.

“Having the opportunity to work with Cello over the summer not only kept me in shape,” says Jurica, “but it also gave me the opportunity to learn and improve my riding and horsemanship.”

What came as a surprise for Jurica was the bond that she developed while working with Cello during the summer. She didn’t know the horse well when she decided to take him home with her and she didn’t know what to expect. Now, however, she holds a special place for Cello in her heart.

Each one of their summer experiences was different, but all got a very similar experience from their time leasing a horse. Through adding to their showing career, to just improving their own skills and tackling their own goals, each would recommend the experience for anyone else thinking of leasing a horse.

“It taught me a lot about what having my own horse would actually be like,” Nash remarks, “She was my responsibility. I had to make sure I was there every day to ride her, even when I would be too tired.”

It was such a rewarding experience that some are already looking ahead to next summer.

“Oh, I will definitely do it again,” Johnson said.

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