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Canadian Hannah Buijs Shines as an Athlete and Scholar at California State University, Fresno

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By Hannah Buijs as told to Lynn Riley

Being an NCAA Division 1 student-athlete comes with a lot of time commitment and responsibility, but is an unforgettable journey. Personally, I feel as though I experienced the most out of being a student-athlete. Not only did I enter my collegiate career as a Biochemistry major, but I was also a competing member of the Fresno State Equestrian Team, traveling to every away meet we participated in.

Additionally, I was a team captain and a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Therefore, I had a very demanding schedule. Despite this, it taught me a variety of life skills, such as time management and encouraged me to engage in a more active and healthy lifestyle.
A typical day for me, as an undergraduate, consisted of arriving at the barn at 7:00 a.m. for barn chores, followed by a one-hour riding practice. Then I would go to class for most of the day (as a science major meant lectures and 3-4 hour labs a couple times a week). My day would conclude with a one-hour fitness workout (twice a week) and catching up on homework and studying. In addition, I was spending time working as part of a research group in the chemistry department.

One of the many perks to Fresno State is that the equestrian facility is on campus, allowing me to go to the barn in between classes and cutting down a lot of travel time. I also liked in particular that we were assigned chore horses each year that we had to care for throughout the semester, so it was like having your own horse with you! Even though the team and school kept me busy, I argued that I wasn’t busy enough and still had extra time. Therefore, I decided to rescue a dog and retire a team horse in my spare time.

Living in Fresno, California also enabled me to travel and explore places where I’d never been. Throughout my time here, I have spent a lot of days in the mountains (where I was able to get my snow fix), as well as the beaches, oceans and lakes. One of the greatest advantages in my experience being a student-athlete aside from the obvious horse part, is the community you become a part of. Being a part of a team meant that you had family right from the start, which is important when you move across the continent to a different country! Older teammates are able to tell you which professors are more suitable for you and can lend you used books for classes you may have had in common. We have a great academic-athletic advisor that helped me with picking classes and ensuring I was staying on track with graduation. The team also has access to free tutors, a nutritionist, a private workout facility and a sports medicine facility. Our coaching staff created a welcoming environment and pushed me to be my best with every practice. Additionally, I was able to partake in other disciplines such as the jumping seat events and reining. This only improved my appreciation of these wonderful animals and the sport they allow us to do.

Some of my highlights over my five years on the team include becoming All-American Second Team in the Horsemanship and the All Big 12 Conference Horsemanship Team, and being named to the All-Academic First Team and All Big 12 Conference Academic First Team every year. I was also awarded with the Fresno State Horsemanship Rider of the Year for two years and received the Workhorse Award and the Award of Excellence. I am eternally grateful for all of the amazing horses I had the opportunity to meet and ride.

I highly recommend exploring the opportunity to become a member of a NCAA Equestrian Team. It is an experience like no other that enables you to do what you love while achieving a degree and opens so many doors for your future. The community you become a part of provides you with a home away from home and a variety of connections through various workshops put on by the athletics department. WHAT could be better than creating lifelong friendships with people who share the same passion as you, and spending time riding and caring for horses while achieving a university degree?

For other Canadians interested in recruitment for an equestrian team, recommend creating an academic and athletic resume, as well as putting together some videos of yourself riding multiple
horses, then contacting coaches from the schools you are interested in and sending this information to them. A variety of schools also put on equestrian camps, which are a great way for coaches to see your skills/work ethic, and for you to get an idea of the NCEA format, as it is different than what we know
from the CQHA/AQHA world. In addition, I recommend showing at some shows in the USA, especially the bigger ones such as the All American Quarter Horse Congress and AQHYA World Show where many coaches often go to recruit. Don’t be afraid to send a follow up email to the coaches of schools you are interested in, letting them know where you will be showing so they can keep an eye out for you!

If anyone has any questions or wants to learn more about the student-athlete experience, please feel free to send me an email:
hannahbuijs479@mail.fresnostate.edu.

You just never know what the future holds – follow your dreams!!!!!

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