My stomach grumbled at the distinct smell of sizzling French fries wafting through the air towards the grandstands. Do I wait in the long line for fries or should I quickly grab a few tea sandwiches and make it back to my seat in time for the next hunter class? It’s a decision one can only make at the Devon Horse and Country Fair in Devon, PA.

Unlike many people, who probably spent Memorial Day weekend basking in the sun on the beach, I promptly took my seat in the light blue grandstand at 8:00am that Monday morning, eager to spend the day watching some of the best hunters in the country go head-to-head in the Dixon Oval. Every horse that trotted into the ring under the coveted “Where Champions Meet” arch had a shinier coat with more dapples than the next. I witnessed top scores in the 90s throughout the day and had to remind myself to blink from time to time. The caliber of competition at Devon is truly incredible, and I left the show eager to get back in the saddle.

photo2The Dixon Oval view from the Devon grandstand! 

But that will have to wait. Instead of resuming my seat in the grandstands the following morning, I took a seat in my swivel chair at the office and logged into my e-mail. A typical start to my new 9-5 work day. Hello, real world!

During the past few summers, I was fortunate enough to travel across the East Coast to hunter/jumper shows on the circuit. While many of my fellow classmates had secured unpaid internships in the city and were forging on their way as young adults, I was going for a 2-hour trail ride out in the beautiful cross country fields behind the Kentucky Horse Park’s Rolex Stadium. That was when it dawned on me that this couldn’t be real life.

Back then, it was easy to dodge the relentless “what are you doing after college?” questions that came in from left and right. But these days, with a horse on stall rest and only one semester of college remaining, I’ve finally come face to face with the harsh reality that as much as I’d like to, I can’t just trot my horses through lush green pastures (like the one at the top of this post) for the rest of my life.

Sitting at a desk from 9am-5pm is tough for a horseperson who is used to always being in the saddle, or on their feet running from ring to ring. Luckily, my current boss is a horsewoman who has paved the way to helping me transition from being a horse show junkie to a working amateur. It’s been a challenge to focus on getting work done while constantly wanting to check social media for recent show results. Did I mention that the Devon Horse Show is only a 10-minute drive down the back roads from our office building?

The next few weeks are busy, and the office calendar is filled with meetings and more meetings, but I see this as the perfect opportunity to put my time management skills to use. I’ve already dropped a few hints to my boss that we should try to get everything done early so we can head over to the show grounds in the afternoon to catch the USHJA International Hunter Derby. I rode in the class three years ago and even though I’ll be on the sidelines this year, it’s still my favorite class of the show. We need to get lunch anyway, and the infamous tea sandwiches are only $1 each. Hopefully she won’t take much convincing…

PJ McGinnis is a full-time college student and avid equestrian who finds time to ride in between class and work. Over the years, he has competed up and down the east coast on the hunter/jumper circuit and currently trains with Louise Serio at Derbydown in Kennett Square, PA. During this summer, he will try his hand at balancing a 9-5 desk job with riding to see what it’s really like to be a working amateur. Look for more of his writing soon!