I started my college search the beginning of my junior year, months before many of my classmates in high school were even thinking about where they wanted to go. While I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life at the time, I saw college as an opportunity to push myself a bit out of my comfort zone and try something new. My criteria were that the school had a riding program and that it was at least a “road trip away” from my home town of West Newbury, MA. Other than that I didn’t really know what I wanted and I began sorting through the many options by eliminating what I knew I didn’t want in a school.
While I wanted to go to a school with a strong riding program, I never wanted to study horses or make them my career. Instead I planned to major in psychology and maybe pursue graduate school in the future.
Still, I was initially drawn to the big-name equestrian colleges like Cazenovia College and the University of Findlay. These schools had state of the art facilities, gorgeous horses, and connections to a number of big-name riders. The idea of attending a school like this is probably something every equestrian dreams about at some point in her life, but after my initial campus tours, I quickly realized that the reality of these schools was not for me. The big equestrian schools almost always have large equine studies degree programs from which they draw most of their intercollegiate team members.
I quickly realized that at most of these schools, you weren’t going to be able to ride unless you were majoring in horses.
As I began to re-evaluate my list of prospective colleges, I was soon faced with a new, opposite problem. Schools that don’t have equine studies programs but do have intercollegiate equestrian teams are few and far between. Of the ones that exist, they usually ride out of private boarding barns and struggle to compete against the Findlays and the Cazenovias of the world. For me, my dream school was something in between: a school that was competitive in its IDA and IHSA regions but offered rigorous academic programs as well.
I initially found Albion through a college search engine my high school offered and, although I had never heard of it prior to that, I suddenly started seeing the name everywhere. Albion had launched a massive marketing campaign and advertised itself as being different from other riding schools. Albion offered three intercollegiate riding teams and it boasted the Midwest’s largest indoor arena, but did not offer equine studies degrees. Their philosophy was supportive of pro riders but they recommended pursuing a business, pre-veterinary, or economics degree for those who truly want to make a career in the equine industry. Then after class students could take lessons, lease horses, and compete at the Held Center, located convenient to the main campus.
I toured Albion in the fall of my senior year and instantly felt that this was the school for me. The campus was beautiful, especially in the fall, and everyone I met was friendly and supportive. After my tour I returned to admissions, gushing about how much I loved the school. The counselor who met with me laughed and said “Wait until you see the barn!”
He was right, the barn certainly sealed the deal.
After my tour at Albion (the last school I looked at), I really only wanted to apply to two schools. Of course, my mom wisely made me apply to three or four other schools, but in my mind there was really no question about it. I wanted to go to Albion and when I was accepted I nearly cried.
That was four years ago and now I’ve ridden on two of the three teams Albion offers, competed at the Intercollegiate Dressage Association National Championship, and cried over graduate school acceptance letters. Albion has been instrumental in helping me achieve not only my riding goals but my academic and professional ones as well. I’ve also met so many great friends here and had a tremendous amount of fun.
Not many other schools allow you to go ride at the barn in between your biology and statistics classes, but this one does!
Paige Beliveau is a senior dressage team co-captain from West Newbury, Massachusetts. She is a psychology major and also a member of the Gerald R. Ford Institute for Leadership in Public Policy and Service. She was accepted at Roger Williams University and Northeastern University for graduate school and has committed to Roger Williams to begin her Masters degree in Forensic Psychology this fall.