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Graduating Senior Enters the Business of Show Jumping

By Jesse Chimes

Kaitlin Campbell and Rocky W

Kogod graduating senior Kaitlin Campbell and her horse, Rocky W, compete in a show jumping event.

For Kaitlin Campbell, BS '13, getting to campus means more than a ten-minute walk up Massasschusetts Ave. from an apartment; it means a two-hour flight from West Palm Beach, Florida.

That's because Campbell, a professional show jumper, and her horse, Rocky W, are competing in a 12-week international event called the Winter Equestrian Festival. The show, which is taking place in Florida through March 31, hosts some of the best riders in the world.

Finding the Balance

Every Monday morning, Campbell flies into D.C. for a full day of classes, then flies back to Florida the next morning to train for competitions and do classwork for her two online courses.

Campbell has been balancing competition and school since she began riding at age six near her hometown in Pennsylvania. After competing throughout middle school, she enrolled in an "independent study" high school online so she could have the flexibility to travel.

"Once you get to high school, the teachers aren't so keen on you just disappearing for five months," she said, "so I did the independent study school and competed down here in Florida, and just all over the place."

When she came to American, Campbell expected the same story as high school and that she would need to give up her passion for riding.

"I applied to American thinking that I was going to maybe take a break and not ride as much," Campbell said. "That lasted about a week, and I was like 'I can’t do that' so I found a way to make it happen."

From the Classroom to the Stables

Campbell began riding at ESP Farm in Brookeville, MD, about 45 minutes north of the city, and later got an internship at a downtown nonprofit called Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) doing financial accounting, effectively applying some of the skills she had been learning at Kogod.

2011 was a flawless year for Campbell, she won 1st place in every show she entered. After one of her victories, a representative from Ariat International, an equestrian apparel brand, offered her a sponsorship, making Campbell a professional rider.

Campbell is now in her final semester at AU, and since her freshman year has won a total of seven grand prix titles and placed in ten more competitions in states all along the east coast. All told, she has won more than $260,000 in prize money in the past four years alone.

"All the professors I've had have been super willing to work with me and my changing schedules," Campbell said. "I'll say, 'I'll be in Kentucky this week,' and they'll say 'no problem, good luck.' They've just been really great working with me."

What’s Next

Campbell hopes to begin competing on an international level after graduation in May, and plans to use her degree to continue to work with horses at a place like WIHS.

"I think a lot of people go to college thinking, 'I've done this all my life and now I'm going to have to give it up' but I didn't have to and I'm really thankful."