When looking at colleges it was very important to me that there was an equestrian community that I could get involved in. That didn't necessarily mean that I needed to be on a team or part of a club, but that I would at least have access to horses and riding lessons. (One of the main reasons I have never pursued a life in NYC). When I found out that my school participated in the IHSA I was elated.
Competing in the IHSA was my favorite activity while attending college. My desire to get a Bachelor's degree combined with my need to be around the equestrian community was seamlessly joined together by one incredible program. In fact, I liked it so much I continue to show as an Alumni in the Zone 8 region. However, I got very lucky with my school's IHSA team because it was only a handful of girls. Which meant that I always got to compete in my jumping and flat classes. This is not always the case with larger colleges or colleges with competitive equestrian programs.
The UCSC Hunt Seat Team
The University of Delaware Hunt Seat Team
In order to participate on my school's team, I just had to show up to the evaluation lesson and show that I could ride at the IHSA level I wanted to compete in. Had my team been bigger, I would probably have had to alternate being able to show with another girl or girls. If I had decided to go to a school whose equestrian team competed at the NCAA level or had a large IHSA team, there's a chance I would have had to make a recruitment video.
A recruitment video is crucial for coaches that are unable to hold in person tryouts for prospective students. Therefore it is very important that a recruitment video be the best visual representation of the athlete and their skills.
For high schoolers and community college equestrians who have been asked to submit a recruitment video here are my tips for you:
1. Think of a recruitment video as a visual resume. First things first, you want to include your name, education, and contact information. Then you want to include your past "work" history and your skills. Visually this can be represented by a clip from a winning Medal class or a clip from a clinic you rode in.
2. Unless specified, the total running time of your recruitment video should be around 5 minutes. Use a variety of clips (roughly 15-30 seconds each) that highlight your talents. If you have a (~ 1 min) video of a particularly good round that you think showcases your abilities, include that round. A collegiate level coach does not have the time or energy to watch 10 minute long submissions, if the talent is there, they will see it.
3. Remember who this video is for. It's one thing to make a nice little compilation of your riding to show family and friends, it's another to show it to a prospective college coach. Personally, I recommend against using music entirely. If you only have access to video footage with annoying talking in the background or lots of wind noise, then I would recommend cutting the sound out entirely. If you feel the need to add music, do not use anything contemporary! Try using jazz or classical music so as not to distract the recruiter from the main focus, YOU! Additionally, the camera work should be steady and focused. Try to avoid shaky hand held camera work and videos shot from far away.
5. Finally, a recruitment video is an investment in your future and can play a crucial role in where you spend your college years. If you are unfamiliar with video equipment and editing don't try to DIY. Enlist the help of an experienced videographer or a company that specializes in piecing together footage. (Or if you're in the Los Angeles area you can contact me!)
A great resource is the USEF Network Youtube channel. Watch how their camera professionals film jumping and equitation rounds. The lack of music and expert camera work allows the viewer to focus on the rider as if they were in the stands watching in person.
Being able to continue your equestrian career into your collegiate years is a wonderful opportunity. Just as you take the time to study for the SAT, the ACT, or your AP exams, you should take the time to craft an excellent recruitment video.