Pre-Season Planning

It’s that time of year – colleges and universities (and even some high schools!) are nearly ready to get underway for their fall semesters and that means that, for students going to college for the first time, there are a list of things you’ll need to pack.  I’m not talking about things for your dorm room or school supplies here – there are enough other blog postings on that particular topic or you can visit the web site of your particular college or university to see what they recommend.

No, I’m speaking to you, new intercollegiate equestrians.  The following is a list of things you should consider taking – as well as things you shouldn’t take:

  1. A great attitude.  First and foremost, if you’re going to be an intercollegiate equestrian, the very best thing you can do is to show up at the first team meeting, at tryouts, or at that first group ice cream social with a smile on your face and an open mind about the new opportunity that lies before you.  Intercollegiate riding is, above all, a team sport, so the best way to start off your college career is to prove yourself a team player – someone with a great attitude that will be fun to spend time with on those cold, early mornings in winter when you’re watching horses parade before the start of the show.
  2. Your riding clothes – and show clothes!  Many college equestrian teams don’t hold tryouts until after the school year gets underway and, due to the nature of the busy show schedule, they also often attend their first meet within the first month of school – which means that if you live in Colorado but attend college in Massachusetts, you’re going to have to scramble to get your mom to FedEx your clothes overnight if you don’t pack them the first time around.  (Summary:  Think like a Boy Scout and be prepared.)
  3. Your riding resume.  For the IHSA and IDA, you’ll need to complete an in-depth questionnaire about your riding history (type of competitions you’ve participated in, blue ribbons won, scores achieved, etc.) in order to determine which competition level you’ll be eligible for.  Rather than having to wrack your brain (or call your trainer or mom!) during the team informational meeting or right before the actual tryout, arrive on campus prepared with a thorough list of what showing you’ve done during your high school career.
  4. Mementos from your riding friends at home.  Making the leap from high school to college is overwhelming enough without the added pressure that you’ll no doubt put on yourself to make the team, so be sure to pack plenty of mementos from home to remind you that you really are capable of doing it.  Maybe you have a great picture of you and your horse sailing over a fence or the first blue ribbon that you ever won – or even just a series of great photos of you and your friends at the barn goofing around.  Whatever it is that makes you feel confident in your own abilities, make sure that you take it with you to boost your spirits on a day when you might be feeling a little homesick!

When you pack up all of the above-listed things, however, be sure to leave the following at home:

  1. Your tack (unless you’re boarding your horse on campus or in the area).  If you will be using school horses for your lessons and aren’t a part of an equine major or other program that requires you to bring tack, be sure to leave yours at home.  School programs have the correct and appropriately-fitted tack for each one of their school horses and many don’t have enough space to store extra saddles and bridles.  So unless your coach or a program director tells you otherwise, leave your tack at home.
  2. Your show trunk.  Similar to your tack, your show trunk – the place where you keep everything that travels with you to horse shows – probably isn’t going to be able to fit into either the limited space at the barn or into your dorm room (which will most likely be smaller still).  The beauty of intercollegiate showing is also that you don’t need to travel to shows with anything other than your teammates and your show clothes, so pack light and leave the trunk at home.

Going to college is always an exciting time in your life, one that is also often full of questions and uncertainty.  But with a little planning and an open mind, you can make the most of the experience and sail through it smoothly.  Good luck and safe travels!

(And if you need help finding your right-fit college in the first place, contact me.)

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