A Rider’s Dreams

Former equestrian looks back at career and the future ahead

Rachael Milkey poses before competing in a tournament. Photo courtesy of Rachael Milkey

For Rachael Milkey, horsing around was a literal term for much of her collegiate career.

Growing up with Horses 

Now a business administration graduate, Milkey is the former vice president of the equestrian team and absolutely enjoyed every second of it.  

“I’ve competed in 4-H and eventing competitions throughout the years and was on the equestrian team all through high school,” Milkey said. “I wanted to continue being around horses at school and show at a collegiate level.” 

Milkey got into horses by reading books about them and she slowly became obsessed. She then decided to take lessons when she was nine. From there, Milkey started attending camps and showing at 4-H fairs and fun shows. In high school, she moved to eventing with the Dexter equestrian team. 

“When I was young, my absolute favorite memories were of the annual 4-H fair where we got to spend a whole week nonstop with our horses and friends, riding constantly, having sleepovers in the barns and cheering each other on in the arena as we got to show a different discipline every day,” Milkey said. “There was such a feeling of camaraderie among everyone there. We made lasting friendships and memories that are still dear to me today.” 

Collegiate Competition 

Looking back, Milkey said her favorite thing about her time on the equestrian team at Ferris was being around “fellow crazy horse girls.” When she was a part of the team, they were focused on team building and being a cohesive group. Aside from keeping their team compliant with Ferris club sports and the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, the team leadership shared the common goal of becoming a true team.  

“There was a lot to learn as far as the nuances of club sports and it was quite a time commitment, but it felt good to contribute my time so the team could be in a good spot,” Milkey said. “We chose to do the extra work to bring us together as a supportive team and it was really fulfilling to be a part of spearheading that effort. I learned a lot and am hopeful that what we did set the team up for future success.” 

Not only does the team get to practice, trail ride and show together, but they also try to plan fun outside activities, such as yoga, canvas painting nights and holiday gatherings. As vice president, Milkey was in charge of organizing community service events and volunteer opportunities. She was also a captain for their Relay for Life team.

“Seeing all of the planning and hard work paying off was so rewarding and understanding the work that went into organizing shows made me appreciate each horse event even more,” Milkey said. “I remember those being stressful weekends, but full of laughter, learning and fun times.” 

The equestrian team is a lot different from other sports because of having to connect and relate to team members in such a short moment. Milkey said that you are given a horse five minutes before your event starts. Winning her first class was a memory Milkey will hold onto forever. When she made regionals Milkey said it was the highlight of her time on the team. Milkey said she drew a one-eyed ex-barrel horse to ride on her regional pattern and while it wasn’t her best ride, she’ll never forget the energy at that event. 

When Milkey graduated in the spring of 2019, she left Ferris with many long-lasting friendships. With being a senior and having vice president duties of the equestrian club, Milkey’s hard work has been noticed. 

Ferris human resource management graduate Summer Gravelyn said, “Rachel was a phenomenal vice president and a great leader who did a great job.” 

Gravelyn was also a highly active member of the equestrian club and attended every practice while juggling work like many college students. Gravelyn said that Milkey had a big impact on the team.  

“Rachel’s biggest strength is her can-do attitude, as she always showed up with a smile on her face and a positive attitude,” Gravelyn said. “She was always willing to give a helping hand, whether it be with volunteering, shows, or other club activities.”  

With all of Milkey’s dedication to the team and the sport, the equestrian team will not be the same without her.  Milkey’s contributions to the team and to her individual teammates will stick with them forever.

“The team will truly miss Rachel very much and all the knowledge she has,” Gravelyn said. “She had been with the team longer than anyone and they will all miss her dearly.” 

Dream Chasing 

When she graduated and left behind her duties on the equestrian team, Milkey planned on training and riding horses back home in Dexter, Michigan, while she worked towards her dream of opening a therapeutic riding facility. Milkey said that even a few years after graduation this is still her goal.

“I’m a bit more realistic now and see that as a long-term goal. I’d like to start smaller with a lessons program, as that would fit better in my life right now, but involvement in therapeutic riding in some capacity will always be a dream of mine,” Milkey said. “Whether it is owning my own, being a part of one of the amazing facilities that already exist, or even volunteering my time there, I do still see that being a part of my life later on.” 

While Milkey hasn’t competed since she graduated, she does still ride. Milkey continues to train a couple of horses she worked with during college and hopes to start a small lesson program in the next year or two. Milkey encourages anyone that wants to try and chase their dreams, no matter how crazy, to do just that.  

“Horses are a big part of her life and always will be,” Ferris welding engineering senior and Milkeys boyfriend Charlie Beers said. “Horses have shaped who she is and will always be a part of who she is.” 

Milkey is now sharing what she’s learned with others and to watch them progress is incredible to her. Helping others gain confidence around horses makes Milkey grateful for what she brings to any equestrian club. Milkey said that with every job there is a learning curve but hard work and it pays off with huge dividends.