Arizona Parker said she will look back on May 2019 as one of the "most hectic months" of her life, but also as a "dream come true."
In a span of nine days, Parker traveled from Tucson to Upstate New York and back to compete in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships, complete final exams, and participate in University of Arizona commencement ceremonies.
"I know I'm going to look back on this 15 years from now and really cherish these moments," Parker said.
Parker earned her Animal Science degree from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She also served on the CALS Dean's Leadership 50. As the 2018-2019 President and a competing member of the UA Equestrian Team, she qualified for three events in the IHSA National Championships, held May 2-5 in Syracuse, N.Y., and placed 8th in the nation in the Hunt Seat Individual Intermediate Flat Class.
"It was a dream come true, truly, to walk into the arena and see all the other riders and the team banners," Parker said. "It was at that moment that I thought to myself, "I really made it."
Parker said she set aside each morning to study, then she had to switch gears mentally to prepare for the afternoon competition. One of the unique challenges of collegiate equestrian competition is that riders draw their horse at random just minutes before their event, with no practice time together whatsoever.
"That part of it teaches you that things don't always go the way you plan, so you have to make the most of every moment" Parker said.
But for Parker, the final stretch of her UA undergraduate couldn't' have gone better.
"It was a joy," she said.
Q&A with Senior Arizona Parker (April 26, 2019)
Arizona Parker, like all her fellow graduating seniors, is looking forward to University of Arizona Commencement on May 10.
But first, she’s going on a trip. Parker, a member of the UA Equestrian Team, qualified to compete in three events—Hunt Seat Individual Intermediate Flat Class, Western Horsemanship and Western Reining—at the Horse Show Association Nationals Competition May 2-5 in Syracuse, New York.
“I would never have expected that in my wildest dreams,” Parker said. “It was always a goal of mine and the team’s. The honor of representing the U of A is something I’m so proud of, and I’m grateful for all the support of my coaches, teammates, family, and faculty, it’s just been so exciting.”
Parker, an Animal Science major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with a 4.0 GPA who is on the CALS Dean’s Leadership 50, recently talked about becoming involved in equestrian sports, time management, and advice for new students.
When did you first learn to ride and when did you become involved in equestrian competition?
I first got introduced to horses when I was eight years old, like a lot of little girls I got the horse bug, and I begged my parents to let me take a riding lesson. I absolutely fell in love and began competing when I was nine or 10. It’s been nonstop since then. I’m 22 now so it’s been a big part of my life. It’s taught me so much about dedication and hard work.”
Describe what it’s been like to compete for the Equestrian Team during your time at UA?
In all my years of competing as an individual in the sport, it’s always about you and your coach, but competing at the university and collegiate level completely transformed the sport for me because I was also competing for a team and with other talented riders. I get to walk into an arena and say I’m representing the University of Arizona and I feel a lot of pride.”
What are the keys to managing your time between equestrian competition, leadership organizations, and academics, and advice you’d pass along to younger students?
It’s definitely a challenge, I’d be lying if I said it was a walk in the park. I earned my associate’s degree from Scottsdale Community College and transferred to UA; coming here I didn’t know anybody. The UA equestrian team was my No. 1 reason but then I had to evaluate what I wanted to gain from my college experience. I knew I wanted to get involved in leadership. I’d say to freshmen or transfer students, evaluate what you want and don’t do things because they are something to put on a resume, make sure it’s something you get personal growth out of. And every time I get overwhelmed, I ask for help. I’ve never been afraid to do that.”
What are the financial challenges of competing in a collegiate club sport like equestrian?
As a team, we’re a recognized club sport at the university and each year we’re given an allocation, a set amount to use for competitions. But our team has 48 members and with a lot of competitions and having a successful year, we’ve used a tremendous amount. Traveling to New York with my coach, it will be about $5,000 to $6,000, so we’ve set up a Go Fund Me account. It’s such an honor for me to be competing, and I’m glad people see the value of it.