No high school student ever wants to hear the word “homework” uttered during the summer months, but what I have found with my students is that, if the homework is horse-related, they tend not to frown upon it so much. In fact, let’s take the word “homework” out of the equation and call this what it is – summer “horsework” for all of you prospective intercollegiate equestrians.
There are four main pieces of advice that I give to all of my students as they embark on their summer riding activities and I’m going to share them here. The main idea is that, once you enter high school and begin to consider your future as a college equestrian, you’ll need to be able to not only communicate with coaches in terms of what your previous experience is, but also to develop a clear understanding of what your intercollegiate equestrian options are and what options will be the best fit for you.
My four pieces of advice are the following:
- Begin to prepare your riding resume. It doesn’t have to be anything formal or even polished the way that it will be in its final incarnation, but once you hit high school, if you’re competing during the summer (and also during the school year!), be sure to keep a list of all of the horse shows you’ve participated in, what your placings have been, and if you’ve won any prizes or prize money. (The last item – prizes and prize money – is especially crucial to track if you are a prospective NCEA equestrian.) By compiling this information as you go, you’ll save the hassle later of trying to throw together a resume quickly when a coach shows interest – and you’ll know that you haven’t forgotten to include anything!
- Video your competitions and clinics! Many coaches will also want to see a highlight video of your riding in order to consider you for their team and some programs will require video of your riding either before you enter as a student or in order to evaluate your horse as part of a boarding application. It’s difficult for you to send them this footage if you don’t have it to begin with, so just like with your riding resume, start to document everything once you enter high school. Though your finished recruitment video will only be around five minutes (more on that in another blog), the more footage you have to choose from, the better the finished product will be in the end.
- Research intercollegiate programs and teams. By mid-May, all of the intercollegiate national championship shows will have concluded and many popular equestrian publications will have full coverage of the results, so I encourage you to read not only those, but also to do research online about what schools – either in your area or in the area you’re interested in going to – are offering in terms of not only equestrian opportunities, but also their academic programs and campus life. (Going on campus tours is even better – they can give you a firsthand glimpse at what your life would be like as a student there!)
- Look for college prep camps to attend. Because the college riding format is so different from traditional horse shows, the best way to find out what it’s all about (and if you’re interested in pursuing a spot on an intercollegiate team!) is to attend one of the many riding camps hosted by colleges and universities that have equestrian programs. If a school that you’re particularly interested in happens to have a team, be sure to attend that camp – most likely, their coaches will be teaching some (or all) of the lessons and some of their team members may even be the counselors so you’ll get an inside look at how the program runs.
And if you’re not able to attend camps or spend a lot of time showing over the summer, don’t worry. Most intercollegiate teams are looking for just as many low level riders as advanced level riders – and sometimes the less experienced riders are more valuable because they’re harder to find!
It’s for this reason that I caution students not to overshoot their comfort zone when it comes to competitions as they look to their college riding careers. Specifically, don’t move yourself into a higher level or division of riding and competition just for the sake of beefing up your riding resume as you approach college. That type of move usually winds up backfiring because students end up overqualified for the lower divisions in the intercollegiate ranks but aren’t strong enough as riders to secure a place in the upper divisions. So if you and your trainer are working toward a particular goal and moving into a higher division is the next logical step in your progression, then by all means do it. But don’t move at a rate higher than you’re comfortable with just so you can add it to that resume I mentioned in my first bullet point.
And don’t forget – you’re also on summer vacation, so have fun!
(Want help with your summer “horsework?” Contact me. I’m willing to help!)