On Horsemanship & Student Leadership: Interview with Emma '23

On Horsemanship and Student Leadership

An Interview with Midland Head Prefect Emma '23

Emma riding Midnight the horse

Emma ’23 rides Midnight in the Midland horsemanship facility

Winter 2023

In January, we got a chance to sit down with Emma ‘23, Head Prefect and Head of Horses. We wanted to learn more about the role horses have played in her life, and how she’s grown in leadership here at Midland. 

Emma thanks so much for joining me. I’m wondering, now as Head of Horses at Midland, when did you start interacting with horses? 

My aunt rode horses and she taught me how to ride English when I was younger. When I moved out to California at age 7, I stopped riding. I didn’t want to do the big competitive shows because that takes a lot of time. 

However, when I came to Midland, I started getting into it more. I didn’t do a ton with the horse program my freshman year, and I went home during COVID the end of my freshman year. When I came back in sophomore year, we had so many restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic. We had to just be with our roommates, masking all the time. So I started going out to the barn during my free time. It was an outside place with a low COVID risk. It ended up being a really good outlet for me – something that wasn’t homework-related. I had a friend who was able to teach me. She was a Level 4 in Midland’s program, so I could get up in the levels without necessarily being enrolled in horse sports. 

Junior year, I signed up for Horse and Ranch Internship. I loved working with younger horses. I started working with Goji, one of the mustangs. I find that really interesting, to work with a horse that’s fresh, and to help them to trust people. It’s been really fun to be the person who starts them on their Midland horse program journey. 

I’ve been able to become a Trail Boss, so I can lead students on rides on the property. I became Level 4, so I can teach students and get people into the program on their half holidays. I can do what someone did for me. It gives me the ability to work with horses during my free time.

What are you working on now? 

I was able to come up to Midland over the summer. I started working with Zara, one of the newer horses to the herd. I started working with her on groundwork skills and introducing her to the program, getting her ready for other students. 

It’s been very memorable. When I get the time to work with Goji, I can visibly see how much progress I’ve made with him throughout my time in internship. I see how much he’s gained trust in me and trust in people. I’ve been able to make an impact on him. Just seeing him do one thing I’ve been asking him to do is a success. I feel like I’m able to communicate with this horse, and this is something that I’m good at. 

Emma loads the gator with hay to feed the horses

As Head of Horses, Emma often feeds the Midland herd in the morning or late afternoon.

How has interacting with horses affected you as a person? 

I’ve become a lot more patient, working with younger horses like Zara and Goji takes a lot of patience. They want to look at everything and smell everything. You have to let them do their thing before you can get critical with them. The best thing to do is relax and let them get that exploration or curiosity out. The same way a person would want to get out their angst; it’s key to let them have their moment. 

With being Head of Horses and being on Horse Crew, I’ve learned a ton of responsibility. I’ve always considered myself pretty responsible, but in this way I see the product of my work. By feeding the horses, and seeing other students grow. There are always a bunch of little tasks to do around the barn, like meds, checking troughs, checking the barn, and  taking care of blankets. I’m now able to manage a crew of 3 or 4 other students. It’s super fun, I wouldn’t ask to have another job. 

It’s great to watch the beginning of the semester, when you have new crews, introducing them to what it means to be on horse crew. You can watch them gain independence and responsibility. They grow as individuals in doing the job, and then they can teach others as they continue to do the job in the future. 

Three students at the Midland barn

Emma has worked closely with Gillian ’23 (Co-Head of Horses) and Ben ’22, former Head of Horses who often comes back to work at the Midland barn

Tell me about your path to leadership at Midland. You’re involved in so many things here, as Head of Horses, Head Prefect and more. 

I came into grade 9 knowing I was a pretty independent person. I could have responsibilities and be able to handle it. I‘ve been able to grow into that and grow more that part of myself. I learned how to balance work responsibilities with academic responsibilities and being a role model and a leader for other students. There are so many leadership opportunities at Midland. Your 9th grade year, you learn from the older students. Then you settle in to know what Midland is all about. Then you can become a job head. The younger students look at you more. You just naturally step into the role of being a leader. It happens differently for everyone across different aspects of the campus.  

I think there’s certain jobs like horse crew that definitely allow you to step into a leadership role. You have to put your foot down and say what needs to be done. 

Midland horse crew

Emma with the rest of horse crew in Fall 2022

What are your plans with horses moving forward? 

Going into college, I doubt I’ll find any other program quite like Midland’s horse program. I had the opportunity to train a Mustang as a 17-year-old. I’m excited to be able to explore new options and revive old passions and hobbies that I had before Midland. I definitely will be able to transfer the work ethic I’ve learned in horse crew to any other community that I end up being a part of. It’s great that Gina always welcomes back extra help in the summer. There’s tons of places that I can volunteer at too, like Return to Freedom, where five of our horses came from. I got to visit there on an Experiential Saturday and learned about the program. I could possibly apply as an intern. I hope to make horsemanship a part of my life as I move beyond Midland. I think it will be something I continue for a long time. 

I’ve learned so much from the horse and ranch experience. You have to get up in the morning and be ready to work. You have to put the horses first, even if it’s cold or rainy, there is still stuff to do. 

What advice would you give to students who are new to Midland and are wondering about the horse program? 

If you’re hesitant, because you’re scared of horses or you’ve already done horses and don’t want to start a new path in the horse world, just try to let go of that. If it’s something you’re excited about, then jump into it. If you listen and work hard, and take advice and mentoring of older students and Gina, you’ll go a long way in the horse program. You’ll grow as a horse person here. There will be a lot more opportunities to explore what you want to do, riding, cow work, or training. There’s a ton to do, you just kind of get to build it yourself.

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