Be Still

The secret to flying changes AND the college search?  Be still!
The secret to flying changes AND the college search? Be still!

I’ve written in previous blogs about my challenges with my beloved (but opinionated) FEI horse Rico and our journey to master (once and for all!) the correct and uphill flying change.  It’s a training issue we have worked to address over the course of his career because Rico likes to change early in front instead of in unison, a big no-no in the dressage world.  We’ve made great strides (no pun intended) so the other night, I asked my mother to video while I rode a few serpentines and diagonals so that I could assess what needs fixing and what’s finally working.

That video will not appear here, readers, and has been thoroughly and completely erased, not because my horse looked awful (he’s such a good boy!) but because ten seconds into viewing it, I found myself narrating the ride by lecturing the talentless lump sitting on his back (who resembled me) to SIT STILL, for goodness sake.  STOP moving your shoulders like he’s the raging sea and you’re a tiny boat.  WHY are you swaying like a drunken sailor on leave?!  FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING just sit QUIETLY, you big idiot!

(Note to self – come up with non-seafaring analogies.)

Thus, my focus over the last week or so has been to sit quietly on the horse and absorb his movement without appearing as though I’m doing so.  (It’s Dressage 101 and I’ve signed on for a much-needed refresher course.)  No swaying shoulders.  No swinging in front of the vertical and then behind it again.  No overt movements of any kind; just sit there and ride forward.  No muss; no fuss; just sit.

Talk about night and day, readers.

I have yet to video to find out what it looks like now, but I can tell you that the feel I have for this horse now is completely different from the one I had just a handful of rides ago.  True story.  By focusing on one (simple) issue and quieting my own body, I feel things going on in his body that I previously missed and he’s performing better than ever – no doubt because, without the noise my extra movements caused, he understands me better.  My cues go through with improved clarity and his responses likewise travel a less restricted path.  (Have the changes improved too?  Um, yeah!)

Happy for you, Randi.  But what does this have to do with going to college?

More than you think, students.  Here’s why:

As many of you are soon to learn, the college search is filled with noise.  Glossy brochures clog your mailbox; emails fly at you from all directions; your social media feeds are congested with colleges who clamor for your attention, and it sometimes seems that everyone on the planet has a different opinion about the career path you should pursue and what school will get you there.  Conflicting suggestions will come your way:

“Apply as early as possible.”

“There’s no rush – make sure you dot your i’s and cross your t’s.”

“Your essay should be about how well-rounded you are.”

“Your essay should show your ability to focus.”

Should you be an active participant in your own future?  Absolutely!  There are a lot of actions you’ll need to take between now and May 1 of your senior year – tests to take, classes to ace, volunteer activities to add to your resume, interests to pursue, etc.  You’ll need to go on campus tours and ask questions of admission officers and speak with students and alumni and keep track of your application status at multiple schools.  You’ll evaluate scholarship and financial aid options, observe IHSA, IDA, or NCEA meets in action, talk with coaches, and assess where your riding abilities would fit in on the teams that interest you.  These are traditional parts of the college search process and they’re inherently noisy when you’re starting out – just as in riding, where you can’t very well perform an immaculate sitting trot if you don’t understand the fundamentals of correct equitation and haven’t mastered the right balance.  You’re inevitably going to move around until you get the hang of it.

But when decision time comes and you need to make your final school choice, how will you determine what the right path for you will be?

Be still.

That’s right.  Take a page from Aunt Randi’s Expert Horse Training Journal and sit quietly for a bit.  Allow the information to fly at you and don’t move around too much.  Listen to what the colleges tell you – really listen – and take the time to ask yourself how you feel about it, what their messages will mean for your undergraduate career.  This is the point at which you’ve ascended the learning curve and done your initial research – in riding, it’s that point after you’ve established an independent seat and leg, the point at which you sit quietly and let the horse do his job because your foundation is now firmly established.  At that point, you don’t need to respond to colleges that no longer interest you; you’re beyond worrying about where your beloved history teacher thinks you should go; you’re not bogged down in all of the news articles about the state of higher education in America.  (I’m deadly serious about that third one – high school brings enough drama in your life so don’t worry about what the talking heads have to say about higher ed.)

Be still.  Take in the important things and let the rest go.  Just sit and ride forward.  The rest will sort itself out.

(Need more insight from Aunt Randi’s Expert Horse Training Journal – or just some college planning help?  Contact me or pick up a copy of my actual book.)

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