I’m an avid follower of Olympian Denny Emerson’s Tamarack Hill Farm Facebook page because I love Denny’s sage bits of wisdom about both horsemanship and life. (The two are typically one and the same.) And one thing he intones over and over (and over) again is the idea that with age and experience come wisdom and that often we look back at our youthful (and sometimes impulsive and rash) selves and think, “If only I could go back and do that over again knowing what I know now.”
In Denny’s case, of course, he’s typically referring to getting a do-over with a horse he rode and competed in the past and I completely understand where he’s coming from. As I work through the recovery period with my FEI gelding Ricochet and get him back on track on our ride toward the Grand Prix level, I’m discovering a lot of things – including (but not limited to) a brand new trot that I’ve never had before (and am becoming very fond of very quickly, thank you). But I’m also seeing the training process go far more quickly for us this time simply because I now possess 11 years of experience with this particular (quirky) horse and because I know a heck of a lot more now than I did when he first came to me as a seven-year-old.
What’s more, now that I have a decade-plus of experience in my work with Rico, I’d love to go back and play with some of the horses of my past. There was a palomino mare of infinite talent with a very spicy personality with whom I think I’d gel far more substantially as I am today than I did back then and also an over-sized (18 hand) Hanoverian with a slow hind leg I’d love another crack at.
And if I get to build that way-back machine and ride the horses of my past with the wisdom of my present, why not likewise seize the opportunity to go back to college again?
Having now visited over 80 colleges and universities nationwide in my role as an educational consultant, I’ve learned about a host of intriguing majors, a wealth of unique programs, and a wide variety of campus cultures that all sound like something I’d love to learn about and experience – especially that I’ve now been through the college experience (twice counting my master’s program) and have a better idea of how the process unfolds. I would be an amazing second time around undergraduate – I just know it!
…and that’s where the contradiction arises.
The very reason I would be a fantastic second-time undergrad and the reason I would love another crack at horses in my past is because I now have the experience to handle them differently. But I possess this experience because of all of the mistakes I made in my past and all of the experiences that have brought me to exactly where I am today. It’s an educational chicken-and-egg situation – you can’t have one without the other. Thus, attempting to go back is a bit of a pointless exercise.
If you’re a student in the process of selecting a college right now, REMEMBER THAT.
A lot of students I work with have major fears about what happens if they choose “the wrong college” or “the wrong major” or make some other mistake or misstep along the way – all the while not understanding that those exact situations are exactly where all of the quality learning takes place! I wouldn’t be half the rider I am today if I hadn’t made mistakes with past horses – and learned how not to repeat them with the current one! – and I wouldn’t be typing this blog today if I hadn’t traveled the exact educational path that got me here. The mistakes are worth their weight in gold and, while they’re never any fun at the time, in hindsight, they’re precious.
So don’t worry about choosing “wrong” things, students – they’re pretty easy to avoid because they don’t really exist. Instead, make sure that you seize the opportunity to learn from those mistakes, those failures (you know – the ones you just finished writing your essays about!) and carry the experiences forward with you into your future successes.