For Her, Horses Level the Playing Field
(We are taking the month of February 2017 to recognize three University of Findlay students who are dealing with a physical condition or other challenge. As one student said, “This is something I have. It does not define me. Never has. Never will.” As we present an article each week, you’ll come to learn what these students have in common. . . confidence, optimism, empathy and big plans for the future).
Riding has always come naturally to Jocelyn Crawford, sophomore English equestrian major. She admits, “Horses are my entire life.” On horseback, she becomes “another person,” free of stress, anxiety and frustration.
Other things don’t come as naturally to Crawford as riding and training horses. Diagnosed with learning challenges and ADHD at a young age, she struggled in elementary school with being able to focus, anxiety and an intense dislike of crowded situations. When her parents found a middle school that specialized in students like Jocelyn, her world opened up.
Marburn Academy’s website describes it as a school “for students of average to superior intelligence who process information differently than in a traditional classroom.” The Columbus, Ohio-based school became a second home to Crawford and she attended through high school graduation. She credited the school with teaching her how to deal with her learning challenges and boosting her confidence about attending the University of Findlay and majoring in equestrian studies.
“I come from a very athletic family,” Crawford stated. “My mom and dad play indoor soccer and my two brothers (ages 14 and 15) play soccer all year.” Crawford tried soccer as a 5-year-old and again in middle school, but just wasn’t passionate about the sport. One ride on a pony at the Columbus Zoo at age 8, however, and she was mesmerized by horses and still is. Although they don’t quite understand her passion for riding, her family is supportive and attends most of her competitions.
Even before her freshman year at UF, Crawford dreamed about riding on the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) hunter/jumper team. Every student who aspires to the team must try out shortly after school starts. “I didn’t make it my first year,” she recalled. As an example of her usual persistence and deliberation, she trained hard all summer back home in Columbus and made the team this year. She’s already ridden in three IHSA competitions, over fences and on the flat.
IHSA makes it possible for students to ride competitively without incurring high costs. Since horses aren’t hauled to the shows, participants “draw” from horses provided by the host college. Riding a strange horse is tough enough, but competing on one is extremely challenging. Crawford takes it in stride, though. “After all,” she commented, “the whole point of IHSA is to learn to ride all types of horses.”
With three indoor arenas and a large number of horses, the University of Findlay English farm will host several shows this year, including IHSA Zone 6. Crawford got visibly excited when she spoke about getting ready for a show.
“When we host a show at our barn, several colleges show up,” Crawford said. “We use 70 horses, so everyone in the program pitches in. Friday night before the show, the whole team helps out and that includes cleaning all the horses and getting them ready as well as cleaning the whole barn!”
With her busy barn schedule and team practices, she has had no problem making friends at UF. Do they discuss her learning issues? Crawford chose her words carefully. “I don’t think my learning challenges are worth mentioning to my friends here, and my friends at home all attended Marburn, so they’re just like me.”
Although she needs little help navigating her practices and classes, Crawford does use the resources of the Office of Disability Services on campus. She has a weekly tutoring session and visits the Writing Center and Testing Center. “They keep me on my toes,” she laughed.
On her way to that dream career of teaching riding to kids, Jocelyn Crawford still meets with occasional frustration and disappointment. Like riding all types of horses, she takes this in stride as well.
“I work extremely hard,” she emphasized. “I really want to do well and am willing to work for it. Things don’t come quickly for me and it’s frustrating and hard sometimes. I want to learn at the same pace as others, but I’ve learned that I always accomplish what I set out to do sooner or later.”
Looking into the distance, Crawford paid tribute to everyone who learns “differently.”
“It may take us longer, but my friends at home and I know that we will get there eventually.”