Moonlighting: How Ponies Keep Me Going Through Med School

Photo courtesy of Emily Rae Sheveland


Yes, I am a medical student, but I moonlight as a crazy pony girl. When I started medical school, many thought it was time to leave my boots to collect dust. And it’s true, they have collected dust through the last four years—but not from a shelf. The dust is from the countless hours spent at the barn. Giving up riding was never an option for me. Some may call me crazy. But riding 4 ponies at 1 am after working the night shift isn’t crazy; it’s what keeps me from going crazy. 

Photo © ESI

It was dark and quiet. I kept the lights off so no one would notice me. Guided by the mental map I created; little has changed over the last 16 years. The air was warm, and the night breeze felt good. As I walked to the paddock, I heard a rustle. Quickly spinning around, I saw a set of eyes flash in the small light that my phone flashlight emitted. My heart jumped out of my chest before I reminded myself it was only a raccoon. 

Continuing my journey to the giant field, I wondered how I would find the ponies in the dark. Scanning the field, I wish it would have been a full moon. With the bit of light my phone offered, I realized I would have to hike around, guessing where the best grass was. As I walked, I started to hear hoofbeats. Turning towards them, I realized the ponies were walking my way. Their faces were curious and worried. I imagine they thought I was some sort of Martian coming to take them away. We were going somewhere, but it was just to the indoor ring for an evening—or maybe early morning—ride. 

Photo courtesy of Emily Rae Sheveland

No traffic in the ring, no hustle and bustle in the barn aisle. It was just the ponies and me. Trotting around up, down, up, down. A calming rhythm brought peace to the quiet. There was no beeping of medical equipment, no ringing of phones, nobody giving orders. Nobody was sick. 

I could hear myself breathe and relax. My brain was slowing down; it had been a long week on the night shift. For now, the small pony transports me out of the big person world, back to my childhood where I recharge and find balance. Four ponies later, five am rolls around. I better go get some sleep. 

Photo courtesy of Emily Rae Sheveland

I am about to enter residency. Another time that people will say I better hang up my boots. I will chuckle, shrug my shoulder, and move on. I know it will be hard to find time to ride. It might take more moonlight rides. You can call me crazy but truthfully, being pony crazy is what keeps me from going crazy! 

Emily will be completing her pediatric residency at the Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. Her spare time will continue to be filled with riding.