Tristyn Hoechst was not originally coming to Crookston for equestrian.
(347 miles from Crookston)
How did you make your way to the University of Minnesota Crookston?
It was just something that came up on Facebook. We live so far away that my high school hadn’t even mentioned it to me. I signed up for information on the equine science major, so then I started getting emails to do official visits. I made it work on a weekend, I drove up here in a snowstorm to visit campus and I drove home in a snowstorm. This campus just felt the most like home. You feel like you’re actually a student. You don’t feel like you’re just another number.
Were there other schools you considered?
I was looking at UW-River Falls and also South Dakota State University.
Were you looking to venture a decent distance away from home?
I wasn’t planning on it. River Falls is two hours from me and SDSU is also two hours. So I ended up picking the furthest school away.
What was the extent of the recruiting for the equestrian team?
They called me a couple different times to say they’ve got a couple spots.
Were you guaranteed a spot on the team?
No. You have to try out. The difference between being recruited and being a walk-on is that coach brings recruits in for private tryouts, and then you get to go through that whole process with her and a couple captains. If you’re a walk-on, you’re in a big group of people that get split up. You ride twice that week, and then you just get picked. Whoever has the strongest skill set we can work with. You go through physical riding, an interview and we also have ride-offs if anything is too close.
What is a ride-off?
It’s intimidating. As far as riding goes, you ride on the rail to show you can ride, walk, trot, canter. After you ride on the rail, we ride a simple pattern, which is the hardest part of being on the team. It’s called “simple,” but it is so hard. There are many puzzle pieces that go along with it. You have to try and figure out and connect through coach and on your own to just piece it together.
How did they let you know you made the team?
We got an e-mail about it. Then we had a posted list on coach’s door. Whoever rode and coach felt had other strong aspects they could work with, those were the people who went to the personal interview with coach. After that and talking with her captains, she sent out an e-mail saying this is who she had for her squad this year.
Had you not made the team, would you still have come here?
Yeah. I didn’t know Crookston had a team when I came for my official visit.
How often do you get to go home?
I try to go home once a month. It’s not always the easiest. Spring break, I ended up student-teaching, so I didn’t get to go home. Christmas break, I was home.
How do you usually get home? Do you usually drive or fly?
Flying home would be difficult. I think the largest airport near me is Minneapolis. That’s still two and a half hours of a drive. It’s just easier to drive.
Does your family often visit you in Crookston?
My mom and my sister helped me move in to my dorm. My mom and some friends came up for a home horse show, and they haven’t been able to come up since.
How long have you been involved in equestrian?
I’ve been involved in it my whole life. I grew up with horses, my family had horses, my grandparents have horses. I did 4-H showing for most of my elementary, middle school, high school. I judged in FFA for horse eval, and I did some other horse-related activities for FFA.
Did you high school have an equestrian program?
Not for riding. Just for judging.
What kind of riding competitions had you done before coming here?
Nothing that we do here. Mostly light, open shows. Fun shows. Over the summer, we hosted horse shows for the camp that I worked at in Fergus Falls. Other than that, I didn’t have anything that came with a show record by any means.
Were you worried about the transition into competitions?
I was a little bit. It’s hard. We work out two to three times a week. We ride two to three times a week. We put in hours and hours of time into research and studying. Right away, I wasn’t sure if I could keep up with everything and be able to get good grades. It was a lot easier once I was in than I thought it was going to be.
Did you compete in any other sports in high school?
I ran track, I was on the clay target league and I curled. My hometown that my high school is in, we have a large curling rink. My great-great-grandfather helped build it.
How long did it take you to get comfortable living in Crookston?
It was within the first week. I met a lot of people for freshmen orientation. I have a job in town, so I got to meet all the locals. Community service and different stuff we do for the team was a really good way to get acclimated, especially in Crookston. Even though I’ve lived here since August, I forget how big this town actually is compared to my town. My hometown is about 800 people.
Who helped in getting you used to living here?
Some of my teammates: Rachel Johnson on the hunt seat team. She was super friendly. We’re best friends. My coach [Kayla Krueger] is always welcoming and knows how to give a great pep talk when I was feeling a little homesick or giving great advice when I needed to ask for help for becoming a better rider for our team. I truly respect the dedication my coach puts towards her riders, and I feel that she cares for each and every one of her riders very strongly.
With two teams, how does the chemistry work across both?
It’s very evident when you see us on campus, you can see the differences between the hunt seat and the western team. But if you get us all in one, big classroom, we can have conversations with everybody. If anyone has an issue, they can talk to a freshmen, they can talk to a senior, they can talk to a junior, they can talk to anyone. We’ve had groups of people go to the movies or swimming.
Was going to Crookston your first big exposure to being away from home for an extended period of time?
How do you feel like you’ve handled it?
So far, so good. It’s nice that I can drive home if I really need to. A couple of my friends life in Arizona, Florida and California. That’s just not possible. I think I talk to my mom at least three times a week. I call my dad any time a light comes on in my truck or if my tires are low.
How do you think moving away from home benefited you?
I think that I have branched out more than I would have at a school that’s closer to home. I would’ve kept better communication with my high school friends, which I really don’t talk to anymore now. Coming up here, I have so many more opportunities to meet people. I think if I lived closer to home, I wouldn’t have taken advantage of anything.
If you were talking to someone who was considering moving far away for school, what would you tell them?
I’d say do an official visit. You don’t know what your campus is. You don’t know what the student life is like until you actually get there.
Where do you think you will live next?
I’ll probably end up moving home, because I’ll have an ag education degree. There’s just so many opportunities all over the state of Minnesota for my degree. It’s nice to have the opportunity that if there’s not an opening in a few years when I go home, I can go somewhere an hour from home, or up here, or Duluth, or the cities or wherever it’s necessary to be.
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