Maggy B. participated in Equine Study Abroad Program in Scotland. She takes us through her first week as an Equine Sciences student.
Arriving in Edinburgh
By the first day of this program, I was hitting the ground running. Arrival was Sunday and class started Monday. I loved the fact that we hopped right into the program. I had no time to be nervous. I assimilated quickly and happily into the life of an equine sciences student. On Sunday upon arrival, the professors picked me and the other students up from the Edinburgh airport. The process was smooth and uneventful as the airport was small and easy to navigate. The professors took care to ensure we were all rounded up and loaded into vans for easy transfer to the college.
The transit to the college was beautiful. I traveled through rolling green hills on one-way roads. Sheep and cows decorated the landscape. From the first day to the last the scenery was some of the most beautiful I have ever had the pleasure to witness. I had the rest of the day, after arrival at my dorm, to relax and get ready for the following class day. Monday morning, I was allowed to sleep in an extra hour to accommodate the time change. The other students and I were introduced to the onsite staff, professors, and horses. I was able to familiarize myself with the campus and the stables. After that, we went to equine physiology and anatomy class.
My Equine Sciences classes
The class was a wonderful review and refresher on information I had learned in undergrad. It simultaneously reminded me of past information while reinforcing new concepts such as disease control and husbandry concerns specific to the United Kingdom. I was able to apply the knowledge I had learned from the states and adapt it to the English concerns that were at the forefront of Scottish equine care systems.
After class, I was escorted to the canteen to have lunch. I was able to choose from an assortment of foods and drinks both native to Scotland and some home staples like spaghetti or pizza. It was refreshing to try new foods and have comfort foods from home to relax me when I was homesick. The cafeteria staff was amazing and would take requests for foods we wanted.
After lunch, I was introduced to the equine staff and my own personal horse Rab. It was nice to be able to get used to the English style of tacking and husbandry before riding began. Upon completion of introduction to our equine friends, we finished our class day at 4 pm. I had the rest of the day to do as I please. A group and I traveled into Edinburgh and familiarized ourselves with the city.
On Tuesday, we were greeted with breakfast at 8:30 and classes began at 9:00 am. I partook in equine physiology and anatomy till 12:00 pm then had lunch from 12:00-1:00. After lunch I would either have an English riding class from 1:00-4:00 or equine fitness for the same amount of time. The English riding classes would consist of familiarizing yourself with your assigned horse, mucking out the stall, cleaning and brushing your horse, getting the tack ready, tacking your horse, and then leading your horse out to the arena for riding. To familiarize myself with the horse I would talk to Rab and pet him. I would get him used to my presence and the way I handle him. After we were both well acquainted, I would grab the bucket and pitchfork to muck out the stall from any soiled hay. After his stall was properly cleaned, I would grab Rab’s tack bucket. I would pick his hooves and comb out his mane and tail.
Riding lessons with my horse, Rab
Once Rab was ready to ride, I would obtain the saddle from the tack room and get him fitted. Finally, after properly tacked, I would lead him to the arena for the riding lesson. The lessons started slowly and were sure to put you on the riding level you were most comfortable with. I practiced riding at a walk before I began trotting so to speak. After my riding lesson, I would take Rab back to his stall, clean any sweat off, pick his hooves again, and remove the saddle. This process would take me and the other students right up to the 4:00 pm deadline for classes.
After riding I had the day to do whatever I wanted. If I chose, I could have dinner at 5:45 on campus or go to Edinburgh for my meal. During the week, the professors designated days for grocery store runs to grab whatever food or toiletries we needed for the duration of our stay. I also was able to partake in paid field trips organized by the college such as a visit to the Kelpies or to the highland show.
Overall, our weeks were busy from 8:30 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon. The weekends were free for you to do as you pleased, and the evenings were yours. The fitness, riding, and anatomy/physiology classes were tailored to review old information previously learned and new information specific to the United Kingdom. I was able to learn new husbandry techniques specific to Scotland while building on the western techniques taught at my university back home. The fitness and anatomy/physiology classes informed me of new diseases and vaccine concerns for horses that I had never heard of previously. I learned about nutritional issues specific to Scotland. Not only did I learn about new diseases, but I also learned about nutritional concerns that changed depending on the environment. I had to take into account the regional differences in relation to grasses, water/weather, sunshine, and wind. These concerns we had experienced in the states but not to the degree Scotland had.
Overall, the program was a wonderfully immersive experience that taught me so much about equine riding, husbandry, physiology, and fitness concerns. I feel that this program grew me not only as a student but as a person and horse-lover. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I am better for it.