Think Like an Eventer!

I have always believed that, no matter what your chosen riding discipline, there is always something that you can learn from riders and trainers in other disciplines.  Whether it’s horse care related or has to do with riding itself, our sport is so multifaceted that we can always use new information to help us improve.  (Case in point:  Everything I know about creating the perfect, healthy, lush dressage tail and about clipping legs with surgical precision, I learned from trainers who specialize in halter horses.  Likewise, I stole my upper level dressage horse’s fitness routine from my friends in the eventing world – or, rather, I stole it from Michael Barisone, who stole it from Boyd Martin and Phillip Dutton.)

At any rate, as I was touring the University of Kentucky last weekend with my good family friend (who is also a passionate and talented event rider) and we talked about her college search, her riding, and college life in general, it occurred to me that high school students who are embarking on the college search process should really take a page out of the three-day eventer’s playbook when it comes time for them to find their right fit school.  Don’t think like a dressage rider and try to make it neat and perfect.  Don’t think like a barrel racer and just “turn and burn.”  Don’t even think like an equitation rider and count the strides in your perfect round out so many times that you can rattle it off without thinking.  No.  Instead, think like an eventer.

Here’s what I mean:

  • Don’t let distance be a factor.  Maybe it’s because all of the eventers I know well are based here in the Midwest, but every single one of them thinks nothing of hauling their horses across four states (or more!) to compete on a regular basis.  One of my former college students went to a “close” event in Tennessee one weekend (from her home base in Michigan), then turned around the next weekend and hauled her horse to Georgia.  Michigan offers the beloved Richland Park Horse Trials each fall and is home to some nice local shows for eventers, but riders don’t seem to worry as much about the location of the event as much as they worry about competing in a great environment.  If the cross-country course is challenging and a true test of their training and it fits into their conditioning schedule, they’ll drive to it.
    How does this play into the college search?  Don’t limit yourself to only schools you’ve heard of previously or only schools within your home state!  Be willing to drive past a few schools that may have proximity in their favor but don’t offer the environment, academic program, or campus community you need to make your college career successful.  Make a list of things that your chosen college must have and stick with it – even if it means getting on a plane and flying to another state to find it!  It’s no different than an eventer finding a competition that fits perfectly into their training regime – and that happens to be 600 miles from home – and enthusiastically entering it without giving a second thought to the distance.  They’re focused on the end goal – and you should be too!
  • Don’t let outside factors mess with your head.  How many times have you read the results of a three-day event or watched the Rolex Kentucky on television and seen the riders completing their dressage tests, cross-country runs, and stadium jumping in the pouring rain?  (One of my eventer friends swears that her tack has never been the same since Hurricane Ike visited the American Eventing Championships a few years ago.)  Nothing short of lightning, tornadoes, or other severe acts of nature will stop a three-day competition and eventers don’t fear rough conditions.  Instead, they add the appropriate studs to their horse’s shoes, strap on their safety vests and helmets, and head out.  (Talk to enough eventers and I’m sure you’ll even meet a few who prefer bad weather to good!)

    How does this play into the college search?  Outside factors in your college search can be anything from poor weather on your campus tour (like Hurricane Ike!), to a less-than-Top-10 rank for the school from U.S. News & World Report, to a review from your best friend, who tells you that “Jane’s brother looked at that school and said the kids who went there were weird.”  Your college search needs to be just that – yours.  You’ve spent nearly 12 years of school preparing to make the leap to college and you have a list of things that you want your dream school to have – so why would you make it this far to let that dream slip away just because of a few superficial negative factors?  If it rains in monsoon form at the Rolex, the riders don’t let a year (or more!) of training slip away – they go out and ride.  Do the same in your college search – push the negative away and make a decision that befits all of your hard work!

  • Have fun!  I don’t honestly think I’ve ever met an eventer who didn’t know how to have a really good time.  I don’t know if it’s because you have to have a great sense of humor (and a huge streak of daring!) in you to run cross-country and jump some of the things that they point their horses at or if it’s simply that three-day eventing tends to attract really fun people.  But I know that my eventer friends don’t take very many things too seriously – excluding, of course, the fitness and care of their equine athletes.  Everything else – a bad day, poor weather conditions, etc. – pretty much rolls off their backs without much fuss.  And at the end of the day, win or lose, everyone knows how to unwind and look forward to the next competition.

    How does this play into the college search? It’s easy to stress yourself out during the college search when you constantly focus on the fact that the next four years of your life will basically determine your whole future – which is why you need to banish that thought from your mind!  As someone who visits a lot of colleges every year, let me tell you how much fun it is to discover something new and interesting about a school that you thought you already knew everything about!  And campus tours?  No matter what the weather, I always enjoy them.  So plant this thought in your mind before you embark on the search:  You’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to finding your perfect school – it’s out there, trust me! – so there’s no reason not to enjoy the ride.  If School A doesn’t turn out to be “the one,” head on over to School B and see if that one works.  No muss, no fuss – just like an eventer!

Want to learn about how the college search process can relate to the other riding disciplines – or just want someone to talk you through the whole thing?  Contact me!

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