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The college search starts with a dream and encompasses aspirations for excellent education, preferences for location and size, hope for a good campus culture, access to knowledgeable professors and so much more. But for equestrian youth, who often view their athletic equestrian pursuits as priority, there is one larger factor - how can horses be incorporated into their college career? Luckily, the College Preparatory Invitational (CPI) can help.

The CPI is an entire weekend of events geared toward preparing students in grades 8-12 for their college search. From a college fair and educational lecture sessions, to a discussion hosted by Olympian Peter Wylde and a full college-format horse show, the CPI truly allows young riders to explore the college equestrian experience. Academic excellence and personal integrity are encouraged and rewarded through this event with a selection of scholarships for college.

While not everyone can make it to attend the CPI, we hope to make you feel as if you were right there with us.

Welcome to Wellington.

CPI Day 1 – From College Fair to Clinic

As the first day of the CPI kicked off, you could truly see what makes this event unique. Booth after booth of college vendors surrounded the edge of the covered arena, all eager to explain to students why their school may be the right match. Eighth to twelfth graders browsed the schools with nervous excitement.

The opportunity to start the search for college in an equestrian setting is rare, and getting to meet the coaches from various schools is a huge benefit. Ninth grader Isabelle Davis felt this was the biggest take-away from the event for her, telling us that, “being able to interact with the coaches [at the college fair] allowed me to understand what I’m looking for in a college, in a campus and in a mentor, because they are going to be guiding me through the start of the rest of my career.”

The IHSA is a unique showing experience (which we will discuss in more detail in Day 2 & 3 ). Bob Cachione, Founder and Executive Director of the IHSA, described his ideals behind creating the IHSA to the crowd by saying, “…I didn’t care what your riding ability was and I didn’t care what your financial ability was; I wanted everybody to have the opportunity to learn how to ride with the possibility of learning at a horse show.” The CPI gives young riders an opportunity to test out the IHSA format before they head to college.

As mid-day hit, educational speaker sessions began under a tent, as a grand prix competition happened to take place in the background. Students were able to hear successful equestrians speak about what to consider when thinking about college selection, tips for future equine job hunting, how the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) can open doors and more.

The talks then shifted to the college search and how equestrian pursuits can be incorporated. Karin Bump, Professor of Equine Studies at Cazenovia College, gave a great talk to help students see how they could connect a non-equestrian major to the equestrian world. “You can’t give me something that you can major in that I can’t find a way to connect to equine,” she explained, as she outlined how a degree in marketing, law or any number of other fields could be beneficial to any horse-themed path. Candace FitzGerald, President of the Dobbin Group and head of marketing and PR for the CPI, closed out the speaking sessions by telling students, “I know you’re all thinking about how to get into a great college, and that’s really important because your big life decisions start now.”

Later that afternoon, clinic sessions were held where riders were able to receive tips from a coach on how to catch ride and make the best of whatever mount they drew. The coach worked them through how to handle various types of rides, giving them tips on the unknown horse they were assigned for the clinic on both the flat and over fences. This helped prepare them for competition the next day and throughout their college careers.

CPI Day 1 concluded with an evening welcome reception at the local Dover Saddlery, complete with a talk from Olympian, Peter Wylde (who we interviewed on Day 3 ). Students, parents and coaches enjoyed snacks and browsed their favorite equestrian products while sharing insights and favorite moments from the day. Peter Wylde spoke eloquently about the value of a college education, pointing out how, “all of the intercollegiate riding programs have really grown a lot and there is so much that you can learn from these university programs that is particular to the horse community, even just from marketing or business aspects.” Peter garnered a laugh from the crowd when he shared how he once told his college advisor that he didn’t need to apply to colleges because it wasn’t what he wanted to do. Luckily Peter realized that he would be remiss to not take advantage of the opportunities college could offer. “During the school year, I really focused on being in college and it’s the smartest thing I ever did.”

And with that advice under their belts, the students were ready for Days 2 and 3 and the horse show!

Page 2 - CPI Days 2 & 3      Page 3 - Peter Wylde Interview