Now that I’ve been back from the Pin Oak College Equestrian Fair in Katy, Texas for a week, I’ve had time to reflect a bit on what a fantastic experience it was and about two key observations I made while I was there.
First and foremost, kudos to Roxanne Cook and her staff for running a truly first-class event at a wonderful facility! I’ve been to hundreds of college fairs and hundreds of equestrian events during my career, some good and some bad. Never before have I been to a college fair that was also an equestrian event and one that was so well organized. If you are college-bound high school student and you live around the Houston area (or are going to be there next fall for the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show), mark your calendar for this event. You won’t regret it.
As for me, I spoke with more students than I could count last Friday. I couldn’t count them all because, not only was I swamped all night, but also because the conversations I had with each student were so meaningful. And that’s what really stood out: Each student who stepped up to my table had what I consider to be the three Ps of college fair success.
(Just so we’re clear, what are those three Ps, Randi?)
Every student I spoke with at Pin Oak was poised, prepared, and present. They were poised in that they didn’t allow their parents to do all of the talking for them; instead, they displayed the self-confidence to step right up and begin a conversation without waiting for their parents to take the lead. They were prepared with good, well-thought-out questions; that is, each student had at least a kernel of an idea of what academic program would be of interest during college and knew what questions to ask about that particular program at any given school. Finally, by present, I don’t mean that they showed up. Instead, I mean that when they received answers to their questions, they actively listened to those responses, then asked follow-up questions to indicate that they had paid attention. They weren’t distracted by cell phones or friends or parents; they were present and I’ve no doubt that will pay off for them down the road!
It’s incredibly rare for any admission counselor to go to a college fair and encounter an entire roomful of students who possess those crucial three Ps, so Houston students, pat yourselves on the back. Other students – take note! It’s your college education on the line when you visit these events – set yourself up for success from the moment you arrive!
My second observation from Pin Oak is riding-related: The majority of students with whom I had conversations were riding in the hunter/jumper discipline and were jumping three feet, nine inches (minimum). That is, they were all dedicated and talented riders who had put in a lot of saddle time to become quite accomplished. Yet many were shocked to learn that the highest fence height jumped in IHSA hunt seat competition is somewhere between two feet, nine inches and three feet. (As one coach I know observes: “That’s a stick on the floor.”) Granted, with intercollegiate competition, students have other challenges to face – namely the fact that they draw a strange horse and get no warm up before they head into their classes. But for many students, learning that college riding is a little different than the “jump higher, flat better, show more” mentality they’ve had drilled into their heads since they were in jodhpurs and paddock boots leaves them unsure of how to proceed with their college riding plans.
I see two options for that student:
The first option is, quite simply, to forego riding on a college team after high school and, instead, find a college or university with the programs you need and want that is either near a great boarding facility for your current horse or near a great training facility where you can ride a lot of talented horses at your current level. That way, riding can continue to be a significant part of your life while you pursue your education and you can maintain the freedom to train and compete in any way you want without having to fit into the regimen of a team program.
The second option is to change your thinking; instead of looking at intercollegiate competition as a step down for your riding abilities, think of what you’ll gain if you take four years to become a part of a college riding team. You’ll learn to ride a host of different horses (some good, some bad, and – yes – some even ugly), you’ll get to practice horsemanship skills that will transfer to every horse you’ll sit on for the rest of your riding career, you’ll get to represent your school as a member of a team, and you’ll no doubt meet a group of fellow equestrians who will become your friends for life. So at the end of four years of college, there’s a good chance you’ll have gained something greater than just ability in the saddle. (Also of note – at the end of four years, your parents would also like for you to have a college degree. Do your homework, kids.)
I will happily work with students who choose either option. Contact me today and let’s chat about which one will work best for you!