If you’re a long-time reader of this blog (or if you were bored and read back through some of my entries for the past year or so), you’ll recall that I went on the hunt for a young FEI dressage prospect in July of 2014 and finally found one in December. It was the first horse search I was forced to endure since 2007 when I purchased my current FEI mount, Ricochet – though it’s not really fair to say that I conducted a search for Rico; in fact, it’s probably more accurate to say that he found me through the matchmaking efforts of our longtime trainer.
Prior to the purchase, however, as I explained to a group of non-horse friends that I was waffling on the idea of going back to look a second time at young Kashmir, whom I found through a friend of a friend, the following exchange occurred:
Friend #1: “How hard is it to buy a horse? I figured you would have come home with something by now!”
Me: “Well, this one’s too young to sit on so I’ve been doing research on his mother and father lines; I have a call into the trainer who competed his mother to make sure she wasn’t a psychopath under saddle; I’ve looked at the competition results on offspring from his father’s line; and he has to be checked for clear lungs and no heart murmur…”
Friend #2 (interrupting): “We thought you just wanted to buy a horse – we didn’t know you were looking for something so specific!”
Now, if you’re a horse person reading this (I suspect that you are), you’re undoubtedly nodding and smiling right now because you’ve had similar conversations with your non-horse friends and family members about some weird inside aspect of our sport. (I’m the most acutely aware of my Type A+ dressage rider tendencies when I talk with non-riding friends and am now used to the strange looks I get.) But if you’re a college-bound high school student (which I hope you are!), you might also recognize some similarities to conversations you’ve had with friends, family members, teachers, and others about your ongoing college search.
Innocently, they’ll ask, “What schools are you looking at?” and you’ll reply, “I’m looking at liberal arts schools in New England with a focus on funding student research – particularly women in the sciences – a robust study abroad program, a hunt seat equestrian team, and I’d really like to be in a suburban setting with good access to mass transit.”
Upon receipt of this information, the interested party may have offered you one of the following responses:
“Yale must have a good science program…” OR
“Don’t they have a riding team right down the road at Big State University? That’s where Jane Smith’s daughter goes and I think she’s pre-med.”
Just like my dressage prospect hunt, your college search focus is specific, well-researched, and something that you’re so deeply involved in that it’s second nature for you to describe the minutiae of it at a moment’s notice – but unfortunately, to your friends and loved ones, you might as well be giving said explanation in Swahili. Still, it’s worth acknowledging that the person with whom you’re in conversation has taken a genuine interest in your college plans and cares enough to offer support even though the information they share may fall well short of the mark you’re hoping to hit. Much like those friends who kindly feign interest in our riding activities (even if they don’t understand our passion for the sport), those who inquire about your college search typically do so out of care for you rather than a strong desire or real ability to help (though listen to them carefully – you never know when someone might know of a school that’s actually your perfect fit!)
Either way, it’s funny. Often I find that the “non-help” I receive from the people in my life who don’t know about horses (or in your case, the people in your life who aren’t college experts but want to see you happy at the school of your dreams) turns out to be very helpful in the end because it makes me ask questions that I haven’t previously thought of or re-examine my research with an eye toward confirming or dispelling something I previously believed. Sometimes I even alter my opinion based on a new interpretation of the information thanks to their line of questioning.
Maybe you’ll find the same is true for you the next time someone innocently asks you about your college search – give it a try!
Meanwhile, in my case, I went back for a second look at the weanling (whose mother was not a psychopath under saddle, for the record) and brought him home at the end of December. The previously referenced Kashmir is a brown Dutch Warmblood (very similar to reluctant big brother Rico) with a wonderful pedigree and an even more wonderful personality. He’s an old soul, readers, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for him – as well as find out if my thorough research pays off!