The November issue of Dressage Today magazine is the junior issue and a very good read. In particular, I was excited to see noted dressage trainer Courtney King-Dye offering critiques in the “Clinic” section – excitement that increased when she offered the following advice at the conclusion of her column:
“A college education is valuable, even in this industry. I made sure to get my degree and that education has helped me in several ways: Some clients are attracted to someone with an education because it helps you communicate intelligently on different subjects. More important is that it forces you to be well-rounded. I know it’s hard to believe, but there are other things in life besides horses.”
This is the exact same thing I’ve been telling students for nearly 10 years (and the same thing my mother has told me for my entire life!), but when you hear it coming from an Olympic rider, somehow the words have a little bit more weight. (PS – Thanks, Mom!)
It’s also important to note that Courtney’s degree from Columbia University isn’t in anything horse-related; instead she majored in literature. Beezie Madden – who added a team gold medal at the 2011 Pan American Games in show jumping yesterday – has a two-year associate’s degree in liberal arts from Southern Seminary Junior College. Dressage professional and Olympic hopeful Lauren Sprieser has a degree in public policy and urban planning from Sarah Lawrence College. And, finally, Madden’s fellow Olympic show jumper Peter Wylde has a degree in history from Tufts University and once said of the experience, “I spent time with interesting people whom I knew I would not be as likely to meet after school when I went back to riding full time.”
And to what end do I mention all of this information?
Education in any form is a good thing. But for riders – especially young ones – I too often see that they get so wrapped up in horses and competitions and the equestrian world that they forget that there’s a whole other world out there that can’t tell a snaffle from a curb and has no idea what makes an oxer Swedish or otherwise. Young riders need to get out there and learn about things like literature and urban planning and history and the liberal arts so that they can fill in the gaps not only in their own knowledge, but in their life experiences as well. The horse stuff they already know because it’s a passion in their lives and something they’ve absorbed over their years of exposure to the sport. None of that goes away just because you begin to read books by William Faulkner and develop an understanding of cognitive dissonance – in fact, often it can be enhanced by the new knowledge.
The bottom line is that, while there will always be a need for top-level equestrian professionals in this country (and abroad), there will also always be a need for those equestrians to interact with the non-horse world successfully in order to build their businesses and best serve their clients and their horses. (Also, forging friendships outside of the horse world will mean that you can always get away from the horses altogether when you need a break. Golf anyone?)
Want to find a way to balance riding and academics at the right college? Contact me – I’m happy to help!