Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Alfred University's Equine Industry in Ireland: Meet Kristen

By Kristen

Welcome to AU's Equine Industry in Ireland blog! I'm Kristen Kovatch, one of two bloggers who will be chronicling the class's adventures in Ireland from May 19-30. I am the western teacher and trainer at Alfred University, invited to join the class for the traveling portion of the class.

I graduated from Alfred in 2010 with a major in English literature and creative writing and minors in equestrian studies and music. Immediately after graduation I took the position at the equestrian center and have been there ever since, teaching classes in western riding and driving and coaching the western equestrian teams. Along the way I've further developed my riding skills--not only in the western discipline but riding hunt seat and over fences as well. My background before attending and later working at Alfred was mixed but heavily rooted in hunt seat equitation, so I embrace a well-rounded and multidisciplinary approach to any seat of riding. The beauty of working for a collegiate and academic-based equestrian center is the freedom to use all of my skills I developed as an undergraduate--well, the music, not so much, but I hone my writing skills on a daily basis, lucky enough to have an equestrian job that allows my multiple interests and talents to flourish.

Traveling to Ireland, therefore, will serve not only to satisfy the equestrian part of me that looks forward to the cross-country jumping, stud farm tours and days on the racecourses that lie ahead of us over the next two weeks, but the history, culture, literature, music, food--everything about traveling to a new place. Ireland itself holds personal allure; I'm sure like most of America that there is some relative of mine tracing some heritage back to the country. I had a brief and ill-fated Irish phase in my musical development, seeking to take up the Irish fiddle (followed briefly in undergrad with a bluegrass fiddle phase. My classical violin teacher did not appreciate this form of musical expression.) A close friend in my youth and I spent hours poring over Irish history (most of which has since been tragically forgotten) wishing we had the opportunity to travel back to this land where it seemed as though all legends were reality and the past could easily be the present and future. While I'm sure a lot of our hunger was fed by stereotype, parts of our dreams seem about to become reality judging by our trip itinerary.

I'm not necessarily well-traveled. My experiences out of the States include a brief stint in Stratford, Canada for the Shakespeare Festival and a week's tropical vacation in Grand Cayman. I won't say I'm inexperienced, however--I worked for five summers on a guest ranch in Wyoming, which was nearly like a foreign country in terms of people-culture and horse-culture; I understand something of the sensation of being overwhelmed in a new place with people unlike myself. While ten days being swept from place to place in Ireland will not offer me the same opportunity to truly immerse myself as I long to be able to do, I'm looking forward not only to our planned tours but the free time afforded to us in towns and cities all around the country, hours which I hope to use to explore not only the fabled historic and cultural attractions but whatever haunts I can find that will let me see Ireland how the locals live it--the shops and pubs and public places that make up the day-to-day in the country or city.

Welcome along for the journey, reader!

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