Student Features

Laura helps train horses for Olympic hopeful

Feb 2, 2016

Working professionally with horses is Laura Collins’ dream career. PA Cyber’s flexibility is helping her make that dream come true.

Last October, the PA Cyber sophomore won her age division championship in equitation at the 2015 Pennsylvania State 4-H Horse Show. It was a feather in her cap when she applied for and got a job working with horses for U.S. Olympic equestrian hopeful Arden Wildasin in South Carolina.

Now she divides her time between going to school online and riding horses that compete at elite levels in dressage, cross-country and show jumping.

“This is what she wants to do. Horses. She hopes to be a professional. You can’t do that with regular school unless you are a millionaire,” said her mother Jean.

The youngest child of a large family in Wyoming County, Pa.  – she has four sisters and two brothers – Laura from a young age has spent all her spare time riding, training and caring for horses at Abington Hills Farm in Dalton, Pa.

As she became involved with competitive riding, Laura became frustrated that, especially in the winter, so few daylight hours remained after school in which to ride. Four years ago, Laura begged her mom to home-school her so she would have more weekday time to work with horses.

“I entertained the idea but was afraid I couldn’t do a good job of it,” Jean said. Although none of her six siblings had attended cyber school, it seemed the best option for Laura to continue her education while cultivating her passion for working with horses.

“We learned about Pa Cyber from a TV ad,” her mom said. “I chose the school because it had been around the longest of online schools that I knew of.”

Laura enrolled in PA Cyber in sixth grade. It has proven to be a good choice, both from academic and career standpoints.

As a young girl, Laura enjoyed horses and improved her skills and knowledge as an active local member of the U.S. Pony Club, a nationwide nonprofit organization that teaches the riding sports and encourages youth to learn the care and training of horses and ponies.

Last year was her first year of participating in the Pennsylvania 4-H Club Horse program. Laura prepared for 4-H show competition on her horse My Fair Lady, nicknamed Spoo.

When it came time for the county horse show, however, “Spoo wasn’t sound enough,” her mom said. “She said, ‘I guess I won’t be able to go.’”

A very good friend who also has horses said, “Why don’t you take mine?”

Laura rode Zikomo, her friend’s Oldenburg cross gelding, winning championships in both the county and district 4-H competitions in her age group by placing first in all three classes she entered: hunt seat equitation on the flat, hunter hack and classic hunter under saddle.

At the 2015 Pennsylvania 4-H State Horse Show in Harrisburg, Oct. 23-25, Laura and Zikomo earned ribbons in hunter hack and classic hunter, and won the age 12-14 championship in equitation on the flat.

It was through an uncle in South Carolina that Laura got the chance to work for Arden Wildasin, a young woman in training to compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in eventing, a three-day equestrian test of a single horse and rider in three disciplines: dressage, endurance (cross-country riding) and show jumping.

Wildasin has competed for several years at elite levels in amateur equestrian sports, riding a number of horses stabled at her family’s farms in Aiken, S.C., and Rappahannock County, Va. The horse she is training on for the Olympics, Mystery Whisper, was one of two Wildasin horses on the U.S. team competing at the 2012 Olympics in London. Mystery Whisper finished seventh in eventing under rider Phillip Dutton.

Jean said. “Her Uncle Matt knew that Arden was looking for someone to help her work her horses. It was a heck of an opportunity. It came up quickly around Thanksgiving.”

Laura took a chance and “just went down” to apply for the position. She got it even though she “is kind of young,” her mom said.

Jean and husband John are happy that their youngest child is doing what she loves, even though she is 12 hours away from home and “I miss her terribly,” Jean said.

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About PA Cyber

Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instructional methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers, and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and does not charge tuition to students or families.