Re-Thinking Things

I’ve owned Ricochet (Rico), my Dutch gelding, for nearly nine years.  He came to me as a seven-year-old with very low mileage and the plan was for him to become my first FEI horse.  Since we both were FEI novices, you can imagine that the journey to our first Prix St. George test last summer was filled with a lot of steep curves – the kind you run across when you’re literally learning as you go.

Our biggest hurdle was one that many horses do easily:  flying changes.  I can’t tell you how many different exercises Rico and I learned in an effort to correct his perpetually late behind efforts.  Cavaletti, leg yield and half-pass variations, gallop sets with changes (inside and outside the arena), a cue with lots of leg, a cue with no leg, and even a tap with the whip to cue – you name it, we tried it.  I rode with my regular instructor, the best instructors in my region, and even with one of our Olympic dressage team members and no one had the ultimate solution.  Everyone’s confusion – my own included! – stemmed from the fact that the horse didn’t have any other visible holes in his training and we even won a Regional Championship at Second Level in 2009.

Then we met Micheal Barisone.  (To be fair, I should mention that Michael is also a two-time Olympian.)

I explained the flying change issue to Michael at the beginning of our first lesson and he said, “Let me see what happens when you ask.”  I demonstrated, Rico changed late, and Michael spoke the words that changed my entire riding career:  “Randi, you don’t have a flying change problem; you have a canter problem.  He’s not late behind – he’s early in front!”


Back to the drawing board we went, rebuilding Rico’s canter (and the way I rode it) from the ground up.  The result?  Yesterday, we laid down two rows of the crispest, cleanest tempi changes we’ve ever managed!

There’s a point to all of this, I should mention.  Yes, I’m a proud horse owner, but more than that, I have learned to view my problem in an entirely new way – a way that made me think about my students.  You see, I encountered many students this past admissions cycle (both my own and those of my colleagues) who received deferment decisions from universities that they were well-qualified to attend.  If you’re reading this and count yourself among their number, it’s easy to understand your disappointment and confusion – especially if you were deferred from your first-choice institution.  You did everything you were supposed to do, you met all of the appropriate deadlines, your essay was stellar, and on paper you were supposed to be a lock.  But it wasn’t to be and by now you’ve no doubt become an expert at answering the inevitable college question with, “I was deferred from XYZ University.”

Students, let me say this:  You’re certainly entitled to your disappointment as much as I was entitled to complain to any trainer who would listen that I still hadn’t figured out how to fix Rico’s late changes.  It’s human nature.  But I’ve come to realize that I had a skewed picture of what was going on with my horse – I did everything right and followed the advice of expert trainers, but I wasn’t viewing the situation the right way until now.  Isn’t there a chance you’ve done the same when it comes to viewing your college options?

After all, you may have been deferred from one school – but weren’t you also accepted to several others?

That’s all I want you to take away from this week’s blog, students.  Yes, you were deferred from one school and it was probably a great one – but to view your college search through only that lens is to focus too narrowly on the negative and to only allow part of the situation to remain in view.

As such, the very next time someone asks you how the college search is going, I want you to list all of the schools you were accepted to first – and see if it doesn’t change your perspective on the whole process along the way.

(And if you’re just starting the search for schools, contact me – I’m happy to help shape your perspective!)


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