Erin Lehmen fulfills her dreams in South Carolina

While most seniors were preparing for their last finals of high school, senior and WEB staffer Erin Lehman was done with high school and on her way to Aiken, South Carolina to work for world-class equestrian rider Boyd Martin and live out her dream. Erin Lehmen is currently a working student (an intern-like job) for Martin, one of the world’s best riders, at Mophah Farm in Aiken. “A working student position is a sort of set up where you work your butt off in order to have lessons with a top rider,” Erin said. “It’s how you network yourself – just like you would with any other job.” The main difference, says Erin, is that she gets to do what she loves for someone she respected and admired for so long, versus staring at a computer screen or sitting behind a desk. “Boyd has really taken me and Emily (the other working student) under his wing. I can tell he really cares; he takes the time to teach us lessons, he says thank you and at the end of each day I love my job more and more,” Erin said. “I swear I’m in a dream.” “I get to work around the most amazingly athletic horses I’ve ever been around. They just have this presence about them,” Erin said, “ When you look into the eyes of a great horse you can see straight into their heart.” Although her job is not easy, Erin stays motivated. Her alarm clock goes off at about 5:30 a.m. At the barn, Erin and her fellow workers work long (typically about 11-12 hour) days starting at 7:00 a.m. They do a lot of the basic barn chores, barn management and help out with lots of other things. Erin also gets to ride a lot. After work, she goes to the gym with some of her roommates. “I don’t ever sit down at the barn until I hop on a horse,” Erin said. “I am physically exhausted and the work is hard, but I still love waking up at 5:30 and each day I come home happier than the last knowing how much I’ve achieved.” “This year my goal is to make it to Young Riders,” Erin said. This competition is like the Junior Olympics of the equestrian world and this is where if you do well you can get noticed. “I will be staying very busy,” she said. Having just turned 18, being on her own was a huge change. Erin now lives in a penthouse in downtown Aiken with five other workers and drives thirty minutes to her worksite each day. She says that adjusting to this new lifestyle was fairly easy, and her sport taught her a lot about independence from a young age. “Living on my own is one of the greatest feelings in the world,” Erin said. “True horsemanship teaches a lot about responsibility and routine and you’re the only one who can really hold yourself accountable.” In her limited free time, Erin enjoys spending time with her fellow riders. “We work hard and we’re all serious competitors, but at the end of the day we’re really just one big happy community,” Erin said. “There is such a huge community of riders, and there are tons of great local restaurants and bars that we end up going to a lot.” Erin is very aware of the risk and danger associated with her sport. “It’s so much different than any other sport because one day you can be winning Rolex Kentucky and the next be thrown from your horse and break your leg,” Erin said. She says that it is necessary to have something to fall back on and plans to return to Iowa and attend college in the fall. “I keep thinking one day I will wake up in my bed back in Ames, but every morning I smile as I look around knowing that I get to follow my dream and that it is becoming a reality.”