Senior hopes to live and ride dressage in Europe post-grad

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Senior Environmental Science and Policy major Ashley Shaw has balanced riding, work and school during her time at St. Edward’s.

Shelby Cole: How long have you been riding?

Ashley Shaw: What is twenty one minus three? Eighteen years? That’s a really long time!

What got you into riding?

My mom trained horses when I was little and I would go with her to the barn. I think that I just grew up with a natural passion for them.

Don’t you live on a ranch now?

Yeah! Now my mom has her own horse boarding and training business.

And I’m assuming you help out with her work there

Yes, so I have my own horses at her place, and I help train them with her.

What are your horses’ names?

Their names are T-Bone, Frankie and Stardust.

I know there’s dressage, trail riding and country western riding, but what kinds of riding do you prefer?

I prefer dressage.

Where all have you competed?

Just across Texas. There didn’t used to be a lot of championships nationally, it was pretty much just if you wanted to be in the Olympics, they have competitions for you. If you don’t want to do that, you just show in your region. This is the first year that they have national championships, which I would like to do, but the horse that I show the most right now isn’t mine, so I don’t know if I’ll get to do that or not.

So there’s a chance you would get to compete at a national level, though?

Yeah, that’s what I would like to do: compete internationally. It’s kind of hard, though, because people who do that are sponsored. I don’t have that much money right now.

I know you don’t have very much free time ever, but what do you do besides ride and school?

I garden! I’m the garden coordinator. I’m gardening right now, actually. I also like to paint watercolors. I like to eat lots of food and go drinking, and I work at a bar. I don’t know of those are school appropriate.

I know that you’ve worked really hard to pay for horseback riding, which is an expensive hobby to have.

I’m lucky because my mom owns a boarding facility and that’s why I can have my three horses. But anything else I do, like shows or anything else, I have to pay for all of that, in addition to school.

If I’m remembering correctly, you’re going to graduate in May?

Nope. I’m going to graduate in December.

Ok, so you have some time, then, before you panic. What is your ideal post-grad dream life?

Hopefully I will be moving to Europe to do a horse internship. It’s basically a working student program. In Europe, the horse culture is entirely different than it is here. A lot of the big trainers can have more ‘for fun’ help because it’s kind of like an art over there, like an art program. So I would like to go to Europe. I’m not really picky about where I go because getting across the ocean is the first major step, but maybe Germany or the Netherlands. You basically become an indentured servant. You live there, you do a lot of the barn work. It doesn’t necessarily pay, but they give you lodging and you learn to ride.

Learning from the best, basically.

Yeah. I’d like to go work for somebody who is competing internationally, but I don’t know yet.

I believe in you! Follow your dreams.

That’s what I feel like I want to do. I have the rest of my life to figure out that I’ve made the wrong decision, but I’m not going to be fit enough to get bucked off of horses and work twelve hour days outside for the rest of my life, so that’s what I want to do first. If I decide that I need to go to grad school and get an office job because I get married or, you know, break an arm which are the same thing, really, I can do that later.

I have a two-part question. Part one: have you ever witnessed a live horse birth, and part two: was it horrifying?

I have witnessed two live horse births. It wasn’t horrifying. Horses are really efficient at pushing babies out, so it took about fifteen minutes each time. Goats are a lot scarier because they scream like they’re being murdered.

Did you participate in the birthing process at all?

You don’t really have to do anything. You want to make sure that the momma understands that the thing that just came out of her is a child that needs to be taken care of. Beyond that, you shouldn’t have to help. I just kind of hung out.

I wish it was that way for humans.

Yeah, I agree.