Stand Out From The Crowd When It Comes To College Admissions

Oct 7, 2013 - 10:40 AM

The head coach for the Mount Holyoke College riding team has some practical advice for aspiring intercollegiate riders.

Every year many prospective students come to me wondering how they can get a leg up on the application process. First, you have to get your name out there. Coaches can’t recruit you if they don’t know who you are. They also can’t recruit you if they don’t know anything about your riding ability.

Coaches are interested in all abilities, riders with different show backgrounds, and riders from different disciplines. Send videos, riding résumés and recommendations from your trainers to the coaches. Keep in constant contact with them. Let the coaches and colleges know you’re interested.

Have you visited the college? Visited the barn at which the school rides? Attended any admission events? Colleges are looking to admit students who want to attend their school. The college admissions process is competitive these days, and you want to stay ahead of the game.

When looking for Mount Holyoke College riding recruits, I want well-rounded students, women who will be able to balance academics as well as the demands of the riding program.

When I look through my piles of riding résumés, I appreciate a student who’s done her research. What does she know about the disciplines? Has she examined the IHSA rulebook to determine at which level she’d ride?

There is nothing more discouraging than looking through a résumé that is addressed to one of my colleagues at a rival school. Please, make sure you are addressing your materials to the right school and to the right coach. While this is clearly a mistake, I question how serious this student is.

Watching videos can be an interesting or boring endeavor. Some students send lengthy videos of walking and trotting around the ring. I like to cut to the chase. I want to see the highlights at each gait. I also really like watching riders on different horses. This allows me to see how the rider is able to adapt. As a coach, this gives me a better idea of how the rider will do in the IHSA show ring. If you also ride different disciplines, please include video footage of that as well.

Do A Trial Run

Another suggestion I give to prospective students is to get involved in the Equestrian Talent Search. This weekend education clinic for parents and riders includes mounted and classroom instruction on how to navigate college admissions from the equestrian point of view. Many of my current students participated in the Equestrian Talent Search when they were high school students.

Jim Arrigon hosts many of these clinics throughout the Unites States including two at Mount Holyoke College. I meet with riders and families to talk about college admissions. I also have the opportunity to teach these prospectives on horseback and help them think about their riding from an intercollegiate point of view.

Through the Equestrian Talent Search, I’m also able to see these riders compete at an intercollegiate level. I see them in a show setting, which helps me gauge how they’ll perform under pressure and riding different horses. The Equestrian Talent Search may also benefit you in the admissions process if you hope to be recruited for riding. Jim and the clinician put together notes on your riding, attitude and performance in the clinic and horse show. They then create a report card for you. You can learn from the notes, but you can also forward your report card to any IHSA or NCAA coaches. Jim and the clinician can also serve as a recommendation for you.

Your riding résumé, your video and your talent search experience could make you a very attractive recruit. The college admission process is quite competitive. Be confident in your ability as a student and as a rider. You are the prospective student, not your parents. Make sure you are the one asking the questions.

Seven years ago, Lindsay Sceats (Mount Holyoke class of ’11), 2010 Cacchione Cup Winner, was making decisions on where to attend college. Her advice to high school seniors: “Things that have made you happy in high school will probably continue to make you happy in college (for example, going to the barn!). If you’ve been a barn rat your entire life, you will probably be happiest at a school where there are horses at least in the nearby vicinity. Keeping horses in my life in both college and medical school has been absolutely the best choice I could have made.”

Each year I look forward to the application season. I get excited about all the incoming talent. The new riders on my team never cease to amaze me. Each year, I get more and better riders than the last. Please do not get intimidated by the admissions process; get excited. You will be riding your way through the best four years of your life.


C.J. Law has been the head coach of the Mount Holyoke College riding team in South Hadley, Mass., since 1984. During her tenure, she’s led the team to three national titles and four Tournament of Champions wins. Law was named Horsewoman of the Year by Spur magazine in 1997, and she received the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998. Law has served on the IHSA Board of Directors since 1986 and has been the IHSA Zone 1 Chairperson since 1989. She began her riding career as a junior doing equitation and hunters. She competed in college and also evented through the intermediate level. Law now enjoys riding dressage. During the summer months, she serves as Director of Riding at Camp Forest Acres in Fryeburg, Maine. She is the mother of four children. Her eldest, Jessica, is currently a senior at Mount Holyoke.

If you’re a Chronicle subscriber, you can log into www.coth.com and read all of the Between Rounds columns that were printed from 2010 to present.

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