UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) student Sydney Switzer wrangled horses and guests alike this past summer. The animal sciences senior interned as a wrangler at Sombrero Stables in Estes Park, Colorado.
Switzer worked 11-hour days, six days a week. Arriving in the barn by 6:45 each morning, Switzer worked with 16 fellow wranglers to saddle and feed 105 horses.
After getting through the morning rush, Switzer led trail rides for guests. Rides ranged from 30 minutes to two hours in length and allowed guests to see a glimpse of the Colorado landscape. Other tasks Switzer performed included ranch maintenance, equine medical care and barn chores.
The highlight of Switzer’s time at Sombrero Stables was working with her assigned horse, Neptune. Switzer’s supervisor gave her this gelding due to her extensive horseback riding experience, hoping that Neptune would learn to trust his riders. By the end of the summer, the pair had formed a deep connection.
“When I opened the gate to his pasture after a final ride together, Neptune just looked at me. His usual excitement for freedom seemed to be outweighed by an intuition that I was leaving, and it melted my heart to know that he would miss me too,” said Switzer.
This experience allowed Switzer to gain a variety of new skills, including customer service. As a wrangler, Switzer served as a main point of contact for guests. They often came with a variety of expectations and wishes, which posed many challenges for Switzer.
“It was discouraging when I took out a family for a trail ride and a guest complained the entire duration. I had to learn how to navigate quickly how to please their desires,” said Switzer.
Switzer also learned how to persevere through new situations. Her supervisor had high expectations for her staff and their performance, which was a difficult adjustment for Switzer. She struggled during the first few weeks of her internship, but fell into a groove.
“It was difficult and often resulted in extended hours, early hours or forced repetition. However, it served as a beneficial experience because having to execute intense rigor on the front end prepared us in how to handle difficult situations on our own down the road,” said Switzer.
The skills Switzer gained during this experience funded by the VP Promise have equipped her for post-graduation. Switzer plans to begin a career in agricultural real estate after graduation, where her customer service skills will undoubtedly help her excel.
The VP Promise is an initiative to provide financial assistance for students pursuing experiences in agriculture, life sciences and natural resources. CALS supports student success both inside and outside of the classroom and encourages students to broaden their perspectives through enriching opportunities such as study abroad programs and travel to conferences. For more information on the VP Promise visit the CALS website.