Foundation!

Readers, if you’re in the snowy and frigid part of the country like I am (and it appears we’re going to be there for quite some time, according to my local weatherman), you’ve probably found yourself thinking more about riding than actually riding.  I, for one, can almost see my gelding at the far end of the field through the falling snow.  We rode on Saturday but probably won’t have hospitable enough temperatures to go again until the middle of this week.

Meanwhile, in sunny Florida, two major equestrian events for young riders occurred – the George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session for 2014 (which was live-streamed on the USEF Network for those who wished to watch vicariously) and the Robert Dover Horsemastership Clinic.  Morris’ clinic catered to talented, up-and-coming hunter/jumper riders and Dover’s was geared to the dressage crowd.  Yet if you read the daily recaps of both events that were posted by the folks at The Chronicle of the Horse (the Morris clinic postings can be found here and the Dover recap is located here), you’ll notice the striking similarities in what students at both events were told:  All students, regardless of discipline and goal, were given the basics of their riding foundation:

They were told that the horse must go forward from the leg into a contact through the seat and hand.  I paraphrase, certainly, but that’s it in a nutshell.  Jumping cross-rails or big fences, cantering a line of tempis, or trotting into half-steps and piaffe comes after the foundation of leg to seat and hand is laid correctly.  If this isn’t done from the outset, there will be inevitable holes that will spring up later for the rider – holes that may prevent he or she from winning, of course, but perhaps more importantly, holes that will prevent that rider from achieving his or her ultimate goals in the saddle.

If there are similar holes in your college search process, you may find that the same thing happens to your academic and career goals after high school.

Thus, the first thing I do with each student who signs on to work with me in my practice is begin to lay that all-important foundation before we can even embark on the initial steps of the school search.  Instead of figuring out how to move from the leg into contact as we do as riders, I meet with students and parents to look at all of the factors that need to be taken into consideration before the search can begin.  These factors include:

  • financial considerations
  • academic goals
  • extracurricular activities
  • academic record and test results
  • other outside issues that are unique to a particular student or family situation

As we begin to lay this foundation through conversations and the tools I utilize in my practice, a picture of the student as he or she is currently and where he or she wants to be at the end of four years of college takes shape.  It’s a lengthy process, to be sure, but cutting corners and glossing over issues that may seem small at first but have the potential to become larger if ignored does nothing but disrupt the application process during the most stressful time of every high school student’s life:  the fall of senior year when the application process begins.

Does this mean that I don’t take seniors on in my practice each fall?  Absolutely not!  I will work with students at all levels, from ninth grade through senior year.  (Inevitably, every January or February, I will always receive at least one call from the parents of a senior who has yet to begin the college application process and needs help.  I’ll never say no to that client – but we’ll have a lot of work to do in a very short period of time!)

My point is, instead, this:

Doing things the right way often takes more time in the beginning, but it will always pay off far more handsomely in the end than skipping over the foundation and watching helplessly later as the entire structure collapses – or, to return to the equestrian analogy I worked from earlier, discovering that your big-time jumper is now a big-time stopper.  So even if you’re “only” in the ninth grade, it’s never too early to start thinking about your college career and laying that foundation to get yourself admitted to the school of your dreams.

And if you need help to lay that foundation along the way, don’t hesitate to contact me.

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