Midterms to Medals (Of the Olympic Variety), These 6 Riders Conquered College and a Riding Career

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t’s no easy task balancing 'normal' life with a budding professional riding career, so is it possible to get a college degree on top of it all? Although it seems daunting, a few über achievers have taken on the classroom and show ring simultaneously and come out on top (and with a degree!).

Whether it's straight to University at the ripe old age of 18, or a much-needed gap year (or five) to figure it all out, 'what's next' always seems to be hovering ever so close. For promising juniors ready to go pro, or the young professional just starting out, there seem to be a crossroads that always appears: go to college, or continue your riding career. But why not both? There's nothing wrong with a little old-fashioned over-achieving. Up-and-coming superstars are showing us how it’s done in balancing college, shiny new careers, and riding - and it's working. 

  1. Lillie Keenan, Harvard University  

Lillie is the master of cool when it comes to focus and zeroing in on a goal. Her days of dominating in the pony ring have quickly morphed into success on the international stage. Now training under the tutelage of Cian O’Connor, Lillie balances her studies at Harvard with trips over to Europe. If anyone can handle an 8-hour plane ride commute while juggling academics and a professional career, it’s Lillie.


  1. Lucy Davis, Stanford University

The Olympic silver-medalist and Stanford grad made a splash after competing for Team USA in the 2016 Olympic Games. While finishing her studies in sunny California, Lucy boarded her beloved horse, Barron, at Stanford’s famous Red Top Barn (celebrity sighting anyone?). Now based in New York, Lucy has combined her top-tier education with her passion for horses to develop and launch The Pony App. As an entrepreneur, Olympic medalist, and college grad, it would be an understatement to say that Lucy is a true pro at juggling life, work, and riding.


  1. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Princeton University

Meredith is arguably the OG of pursuing an academic career at the same time as a riding career. Although her original plans didn’t include a professional riding career, they quickly evolved as she took up training with the legendary George Morris. While at Princeton, Meredith won her first big Grand Prix in 1989 on the famous Quick Star and never looked back. She later left the land of Ivy, but definitely proved that she could do it all.


  1. Maggie McAlary, Auburn University

As the only rider to compete for her school in the National College Equestrian Association (NCEA) on this list, Maggie knows the true meaning of school (and team) spirit. While at Auburn - which has quickly become the hot place to ride for the likes of Maclay and Talent Search finalists - Maggie and her team won the highly sought after National Championship, arguably the highlight of any student athlete’s career, and was named a two-time All-American. Now a professional rider, Maggie is spreading her wings on the elite circuit. 


  1. Jessica Springsteen, Duke University

Jessica’s parents followed their passions and encouraged their daughter to do the same. The naturally talented rider made a splash on the equestrian scene when she won the ASPCA Maclay Finals on the beloved Papillon 137. So when she decided to put her riding career on a temporary pause to pursue her education at Duke University, there were no doubts that she would be back in the winner’s circle soon. Since graduating, Jessica has done just that. A member of the Miami Celtics on the Global Champions League, Jessica is continuing her winning ways all over the world.

Good start to the weekend with a double clear for @miamiceltics 🎉

A post shared by Jessica Springsteen (@jessicaspringsteen) on


  1. Jennifer Gates, Stanford University

The most recent graduate featured on this list, Jennifer is one of the United States’ most promising up-and-coming riders. Although only part-time riding while hitting the books at Stanford, Jennifer competed on the international circuit and dominated the U25 level. Although medical school is on her horizon, Jennifer recently teamed up with current Longines World No.1, Harrie Smolders to elevate her riding career this coming year.

Feature photo by Tori Repole.

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Written by Lizzy Youngling

Lizzy Youngling has been a die-hard equestrian groupie since the age of three. Although not in the saddle as much as she’d like, Lizzy is a fan of all things horses. When she’s not writing for NOËLLE FLOYD, she can be found at the boathouse training with the United States Rowing National Team in Princeton, NJ with the hopes of competing at the 2020 Olympic Games.