Though she has been riding english since age eight, 2012 Longwood University graduate Laura Lash (pictured, with 'Sunny') will be riding out west on a dude ranch almost every day starting June 3rd. The former Longwood rider will take guests out on mounted tours and will even be a (paid) spectator at a Rodeo or two (photo courtesy Rosalie Morton/Longwood University).


(Former University of Virginia rider and later co-coach Rosalie Morton now works in the public relations field. On May 8th Morton contacted Campus Equestrian to see if we might be interested in a story on 2012 Longwood University graduate Laura Lash, who competed for the Lancer's IHSA team. Straight out of school Lash secured employment in the horse industry so to speak, while also intersecting with the travel and hospitality industries - Editor)

As the 2012 academic year comes to a close, seniors are struggling to find paying jobs. Even the market for unpaid internships can seem daunting. One Longwood University business major didn’t confine herself to a job behind a desk; she’ll be riding in the mountains of Wyoming - and she’ll be paid to do it.

Although Laura Lash’s equestrian career has been in equitation and hunters, she’ll be kicking off her field boots and sliding into a pair of chaps this summer. Laura, a lifelong horse lover whose internship during the summer of 2011 was managing an equestrian business, lassoed a job as a wrangler at Goosewing Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Less than two weeks after graduating this May, Lash will begin working as a “tour guide on horseback” at Goosewing, a combination dude ranch and upscale resort.

“My philosophy as a business major is that your job doesn’t have to be behind a desk,” said Laura, whose double concentration is in management information systems assurance and management. “I don’t want a desk job, at least not for now. I’m going to chase something different for a while.”

As a junior on Longwood’s equestrian team, Lash finished in first place in advanced walk-trot canter at 2011 Zone 4, Region 2 Regionals, held at the University of Virginia's host facility, the Barracks. She then finished fifth at Zone 4 Zones hosted by Bridgewater College. During the 2010-11 season Lash was also treasurer of the Sport Club Council, which allocates about $60,000 annually to the 19 sport clubs that compete intercollegiately at the club level. A four-year member of the Lancers' equestrian team, Lash was President of the Sport Club Council her senior year.

Various courses at Longwood afforded Lash the opportunity to visit Thailand and Yellowstone National Park. On May 23rd Lash flew from Dulles Airport to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to start a trip that will usurp the entire season most call summer. Guests will start arriving at Goosewing on June 3rd, most of them booked for a weeklong stay. The ranch accommodates 35 guests at a time and the season runs through September 23rd.

“Along with six or seven other wranglers – that’s my title – I will lead guests all through the Gros Ventre River Valley,” said Lash. “Because I’ll be in the open instead of in a ring, which I’m used to, I’m a little nervous. There are miles and miles of valley and mountain. Also I’ll be with people who probably have no idea what they’re doing on a horse, though I’ve worked with beginners before."

A member of the Longwood equestrian team all four years she was in college, Lash (on left, with Lancers' coach K.C. Meadows) went as far as Zone 4 Zones once, placing fifth in individual walk-trot-canter on April 10th, 2011.

“I’ll have to dress Western – plaid shirt, cowboy boots and cowboy hat – and eat meals with the guests. I’ll have to learn about the area – the plants, the animals, the history – and I’ll have to take guests to the rodeo on Wednesday and Saturday nights.” In addition to interacting with the guests Lash will be responsible for taking care of two of the ranch’s herd of 50 horses.

Lash was encouraged to apply for work at dude ranches by a cousin who stayed at one last summer and told her about it over winter break. While still on break, Lash did some online research and applied for summer work with at least a dozen ranches in Montana, Wyoming and Arizona. After receiving zero response to her initial inquiries, Lash tried Goosewing.

“I emailed in my application to Goosewing at midnight, and at nine the next morning – seven out there – I got an email from their general manager, Amy Worster, who wanted to know my dates of availability and asked for an interview, which took place a week later. It was interesting that in the next week or two, I heard from three or four more places!”

The job is the latest chapter in her equestrian career. Lash began riding at age eight. During her internship last summer at Cornerstone Equestrian Inc. in Spotsylvania, Virginia, not far from her Fredericksburg home, Lash gave tours, set up scheduling and gave lessons. Since 2008 Lash also worked summers as a trainer’s personal assistant at Whitestone Farm in Fredericksburg.

She’s not sure how riding will figure into the rest of her life, but Lash is definitely looking forward to her time at Goosewing.

“I don’t want to be a wrangler the rest of my life,” Lash said. “It’s nice to do right out of college; it’s a good way to have fun. I like being outdoors and I don’t mind being a nomad for a while. This is a different path from your typical business major. I’m excited.”

--Rosalie Morton


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