The cool fall winds have drifted in and the drenching summer heat is, thankfully, no longer a threat. As many “A” circuit competitors are packing their suitcases in preparation for the indoor series of shows, polar fleeces and sweaters are being tossed in with their best show clothes. The mornings are crisper, the nights fall sooner, and in order to acclimate to this climate change, tack trunks are being stocked with wool coolers and Baker blankets. While it seems that riders are bringing along a few extra components to prepare for the season’s refreshing temperatures, students also have to travel with a few extra tools this fall. Along with that favorite sweatshirt, most junior competitors are lugging text books and crammed binders to the long anticipated schedule of fall shows. However, after reading the article, “Back to School….or at least until the next horse show!” students are hopefully not forgetting to bring along one of the most important academic accessories: a private tutor. Just as a warm fleece can protect a rider from the blue black cold that makes an early morning schooling session that much more painful, a tutor can calm the overwhelming stress that stems from the conflict of horse shows that interfere with the school calendar. While the aforementioned article provided riders with an understanding of the importance of a private tutor to junior riders showing on the “A” circuit, this piece will enlighten its audience with an in-depth look at the benefits of tutoring from the view point of both parents and students.
Tutoring from the Perspective of Parents and Students
While the fall series of shows, usually referred to as “indoors,” represent a climatic end to a year’s worth of horse shows, such shows symbolize a hectic tutoring schedule for a private tutor, filled with long days of coordinating with schools, teachers, parents, students, and horse show schedules. However, as an experienced private tutor, I must make mention that, though the cooperation of the school is essential, my work first starts with the cooperation of the parent. Without the support of both parents and students, it would be a treacherous feat for a tutor to maintain order throughout the show day. Parents must first recognize that his or her child will benefit from the services of a tutor, and then hire one. And, as for the students, they have to be willing to make a commitment to do schoolwork amidst the distraction of the horse show.
So, some of you may be wondering, just how does this tutoring thing actually work at the horse show? As I mentioned, it takes the collaboration of students and parents for everything to come together. Usually, at the start of the academic year, the tutor will talk with the parent and/or student and discuss horse show dates and the competitions where tutoring services will be needed. After speaking with guidance counselors and teachers about curriculums and special instructions, the tutor will then sit down with the student and grasp a better understanding of the student’s learning style. Once the scholastic schedule has been reviewed with the student, the tutor will configure the predicted workload for each horse show and a tentative itinerary for horse show tutoring. This agenda is organized with the consideration of all the facets of a junior rider’s day: schoolwork, riding commitments, meetings with trainer, time with horses, time to eat and sleep, and the list goes on…. However, the first step is for a parent to acknowledge the student’s need for a tutor, and act on the demand.
Mother Knows Best
Ellen of New Jersey, mother to two top junior riders, is very aware of her children’s educational needs. “Since neither of my daughters nor I were willing to compromise either their education or their riding, it became imperative to find a tutor who was highly qualified and understood the need to be flexible and accommodate riding and competition schedules.” Ellen’s positive outlook on tutoring sets a cooperative setting for the education of her daughters. She understands that without the aid of a tutor that specializes in working with riders on the circuit, many junior competitors would not be able to excel in both the show ring and the classroom.
The tutoring process is always made easier by the cooperation of the parent. As a mother, Susan of Massachusetts plays an integral role in the tutoring efforts of her daughter. This fall she has been certain to make accommodation arrangements in anticipation of a tutor traveling with her family, as well as finding enough time for all the day’s events. She comments that it is a “challenge,” from a mother’s standpoint, to ensure quality time for the necessities: riding, studying, proper nutrition, and yes….sleep. Although these junior competitors have youth on their side, staying up all hours of the night to complete a homework assignment usually does not result in a stellar paper for English class, or an outstanding performance in the ring the next morning. It is tutor’s duty to assist in formulating a regime that incorporates riding and academic responsibilities. However, outside the realm of academics, a tutor does not always have influence. So, despite a tutor’s recommendation to get to sleep early the night before an important competition, no action is usually taken unless it comes from a parent- in the form of a command. Without the discipline instilled in students by their parents, the issue of time management would be much more difficult for a tutor to tackle. But, working together, a parent and tutor can guide a student in the right direction.
Schoolwork at the Horse Show
Once a tutor arrives at the show grounds, the coordinating of tutoring schedules begins. It is essential for the student to find some time throughout the day to complete schoolwork. As previously mentioned, staying up late to complete assignments is never a productive cause. However, as a competitive equestrian myself, I recognize that the student’s top priority at the horse show is focusing on riding commitments. Despite the numerous assignments that a student needs to complete, the reason he or she is at the show is to ride, and it is important for a tutor to recognize such. Often when working on schoolwork at the show, it is easy to lose track of time. A student can easily miss a course walk or be late to work down a hunter before the start of a class. The tutor can surely keep an eye on the clock, to remind the student of any time restrictions, but the tutor must also be aware of the student’s riding responsibilities for the day and makes allowance for those commitments.
Of course no student actually wants to work while at a horse show. I understand this quality—I was once a student. However, with the encouragement and time management skills of a tutor, students are able to complete work while at the show, and efficiently utilize their time. Students are often surprised at the volume of assignments they are able to complete while sitting in a quiet place at the horse show. Quite often, junior riders are convinced that there is no spare time to focus on academics between riding horses. Although some days that very well may be the case, many parents and students alike are in awe at just how much work can be addressed when there is some organization to the show day.
While at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, junior competitor Sparky of Virginia talked about her experience of working with a private tutor. “Working with a tutor kept me current on all assignments. Without such structure, it would have been easy and tempting to fall behind.” Sparky also mentioned that she was able to take a wider variety of classes in school knowing that she could rely on the help of a tutor while she was away at show. “A tutor allowed me to take more advanced courses and still, at the same time, spend more time riding without the worry of neglecting my academics.”
Writing papers of great length and studying for important exams can be stressful for any student. However, it is even more difficult to cope with such stress when coupled with competing at a prestigious event, like Medal or USET Finals. For Cayce of Connecticut, the 2002 winner of the Young Riders Individual Competition, a private tutor is an important factor to her academic and riding routine. “There is no way I would be able to get through such subjects as Biology and Chemistry without the help of a tutor. Having a tutor’s help allows me to focus on my riding and not worry about my academics. When I am away at a horse show, it is comforting to know that there is a tutor to help me get through my schoolwork.” Not only can a tutor act as a teacher in the learning of new material, but she can also help ease the pressure of school.
Top junior competitor Paige of Virginia feels that tutors are a great asset to horse shows. “I believe that it is an awesome idea to work with a tutor throughout the indoor shows, and especially the Wellington circuit. Without a tutor, I feel it is impossible to get all the schoolwork finished on time and get good grades. A tutor just makes homework at horse shows so much easier. I am able to spend more time riding when I have a tutor helping me with my studies.”
It is Important to Have Friends
As well as working between riding commitments at the horse show, the hours (if any) after the show are also a good time for schoolwork. Although there aren’t any riding commitments to take into consideration when back at the hotel, there are other contingents. While it is crucial that assignments are completed on time and not put off until the car ride home from the horseshow, it is important not to overlook the student’s need for sleep, nutrition, and even time to socialize. As a tutor, I try to remember that I am working with kids. It is not fair to expect them to devote all the hours of the day to either riding or schoolwork. My goal is to organize the schoolwork and tutoring sessions so that the student has ample time to study, but also be a kid or teenager. Every student needs some “down time,” especially in the intense environment of the indoor shows and Wellington, Florida.
Prominent junior rider Michael of Florida explains that, although he loves to ride and show, it is important for him to socialize after all his rides are completed for the day. “I want to have a life outside of the horse show. I like to hang out with my friends and relax after a long day of showing. Working with a tutor helped me organize my time so that I can ride, get my schoolwork done, and also have some time left over to….well….have a life outside the horse show.”
It is healthy for the junior riders to form friendships with their fellow competitors. With the amount of time that these riders spend traveling from one show to the next, it is important for them to have friends within the horse show community. It is beneficial for the juniors to realize that, although they compete against peers in almost every division, friendly relations can still be maintained outside the show ring. This ideal pertains to a valuable life lesson: competitors can also be close friends. In order to allow this lesson to be learned and friendships to flourish, a junior must be encouraged to establish ties with other riders in social environments. However, if riding and studying encompass all the hours of the day, there may be no time left for socialization and relaxation.
Ellie of Massachusetts raises a very good point. She feels that it is imperative for young competitors to sustain balance through all aspects of their lives and be well-rounded individuals. “Because many riders are driven by their passion, just like an artist, it is so important to allow for reflection in order to maintain prospective of what is actually being completed.” She continues to elaborate on the “sense of responsibility” that all riders, particularly juniors, face. Training for competition and the constant demand to succeed can be so overwhelming that many lose sight of other values. Although riding may be a priority in one’s life, there is still opportunity to explore additional outlets that may lend enrichment to a student’s life. As a mother, it is essential for her to incorporate such dimensions into her daughter’s daily routine. “My daughter and I travel throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe for shows. Although it is important that neither her riding nor academic responsibilities are neglected, I also want there to be time to enjoy the sights, explore the culture, and just take it all in. Throughout the years, a private tutor has helped make all this feasible.”
It is quite a challenge to calculate a time schedule that includes riding, studying, socializing, and other variables of a junior’s life. And, because a student’s workload and riding responsibilities vary from show to show, the student, parent, and tutor must learn to adjust accordingly. A private tutor can certainly alleviate the stress that stems from competitions and schoolwork. However, a tutor’s services are greatly dependent on the cooperation of the parents and students with whom she is involved. As a tutor, I can attest that the overwhelming support from parents and students throughout the years has allowed me to continue my services as an independent educator.
A special thanks to all the parents and students who contributed to this piece.