Unsteady Uproot – “Emergency Dismount!” (Thursday, September 12th)

The most common question I get asked when people find out that I have moved 1000 miles away for a school program is this: Why are you here so early when your program doesn’t start for a year?

The answer is simple: Foresight

Anyone who has ever received higher education (or who knows how these institutions work) knows that colleges and universities like for you to pay AS MUCH MONEY FOR YOUR EDUCATION AS IS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. This is at least the case in the United States. I’ve talked with my friends in Europe and it seems they have made higher education much more affordable for their inhabitants. Not gonna lie, I wish our education system was like that of Europe. It’s not uncommon for students to wrack up 100-200,000 dollars in student loan debt and then proceed to pay that off for eternity. When I worked in the corporate legal world I overheard a coworker talking with her loan agent about her loans for law school. Apparently, she was paying “interest only” for whatever reason and owed $150,000 she kept repeating to the agent that she would “go to [her] grave with this debt”. Did I forget to mention that she was working as a paralegal instead of a lawyer because jobs were scarce in that city? But that’s a whole other story.

The point is that you gotta be smarter than the system. Or at least try to. Higher education is all a game. It’s politics, too. Back when I was getting my undergrad I wrote a story of sorts that compared getting your undergrad degree to surviving the Hunger Games. I feel this comparison is especially appropriate when you don’t have the money for school and you decide to bust your butt to get enough funds through scholarships and grants instead of loans.

If you have educational residency (the rules vary by state) then you get a significant pay decrease in your tuition and fees. This state has the added educational complication of also adding a discount if you live in the right DISTRICT. See? A GAME.

In short, I wanted residency for educational purposes. There is no guarantee that I will get any scholarships or grants (although I will still bust my butt to get them this time around, too), but I know I will get an automatic discount for being an official resident in the right state.

Also, its far more difficult to pick a school when you are hundreds of miles away from it. It wasn’t practical or economical for me to fly out here and drive around the state visiting schools. It honestly made more sense to just pick a state and GO. Might not work for everyone, but for me it was a better option since my lease was running out at the same time.

In addition to money reasons, I needed CONNECTIONS to get into this competitive program. They don’t choose just any ole student that knocks on their door. My application for the program includes: a written portion, a four-part exam, volunteer service, observation hours, and a final interview. I have been warned that it will take MONTHS to get all of the requirements to apply.

Right now I am looking at the very EARLIEST I could enter the program is August 2021, but it could take longer. I have applied to 5 schools and been accepted to all five schools, but I haven’t been accepted into the actual school PROGRAM that I want to enter. That’s a whole other process. At this stage, I am having to visit the schools and do lots of research to narrow down my five choices into TWO choices. Then I will need to decide based on a variety of factors whether I would like to move to the location of school #1 early in hopes that I will A. actually get into this program and B. ultimately get in-district tuition costs.

The details of this operation are threatening to drive me mad. I’ve been having to keep to a strict exercise and sleep routine just to keep my anxiety at bay. And yet…I’m still having some suspicious symptoms of anxiety. Aka my upper lip is burning… See my previous posts for those deets, haha.

Today, tho, TODAY I got my butt (I’ve used the word “butt” twice already, I know. I must be on a roll.) out into the world and went for my first day of training for my FIRST phase of volunteering and observation hours. Several weeks ago, I used dear sweet Google and looked for places that offered therapeutic riding/hippotherapy near where I was to be living. Remember: I just arrived here in the state for the first time 6 days ago, so I haven’t been here long. I am entering a Physical Therapy Assisting program (which is comparable to the internal medicine version – Physician’s Assistant) so I am required to shadow at least three physical therapists (all in different disciplines of PT) for a minimum of 60 hours before I can apply for the program.

So, I Googled and Googled and finally found a riding center that would suit my purposes. I was looking for a program that was BIG – I wasn’t interested in a 4-horse operation for various reasons. It wasn’t far away, which is a big plus. AND their program has ON STAFF PTs which means this work can actually go towards my application. None of it is paid, but it’s steady, fun work that will get me closer to my goal.

I met with the director today AND the PT that I will be shadowing, and I know for sure that they are two people that I will be blessed to work with. And with my extensive experience with therapeutic riding and horses I think I’ll be able to serve them well.

If you aren’t familiar with therapeutic riding or hippotherapy, the short of it is therapy done while riding a horse. It could be speech, physical, or occupational therapy, but it’s all done on a horse. The riders that I typically work with are children, but they also have programs for adults. Most of my experience with therapeutic riding revolves around individuals with autism, down syndrome, and cerebral palsy. Depending on the individual’s ability you might have anywhere between 2-4 people assisting for each ride. That usually involves an instructor, a horse handler, and two sidewalkers.

One aspect of this work that I forgot about was that during training I would be tested on my ability to perform emergency dismounts during riding lessons. These could be necessary for a variety of reasons, but if at any time during the lesson your instructor yells “EMERGENCY DISMOUNT” you begin throwing reins, yanking feet out of stirrups, and shoving students off a frantic horse. As the “primary safety” person you are responsible for the full weight of the body and as the “secondary safety” you are responsible for safely shoving your student’s leg over and away from the saddle. This is perfectly doable when your student is 50lb and on a pony. It becomes much more challenging when your horse is taller than you and your student weighs as much you OR MORE than you.

In case you haven’t fully grasped what this looks like in real life first imagine the tallest, muscle-iest horse you can imagine. Here at this riding center they use quarter horses and a mix of quarter horse + percheron (which is a draft horse). If you’re still struggling with a visual because you don’t spend much time around horses just keep in mind that I am 5’8” and if I am standing at the horses’ shoulders I struggle to see over them. You have a 150lb person sitting on a VERY tall horse riding along when all of a sudden your instructor yells “EMERGENCY DISMOUNT!!!” and within 2 seconds you have that same 150lb person hurtling towards you and you have to pull them off and away from the horse in one fell swoop. With my bad back, I was definitely sweating and my heart was pounding.

SOMEHOW I passed. I managed not to damage my student during a fake emergency. Time will tell whether the adrenaline hurt or helped my back…

In other news, I still haven’t put my license plates on my car because I still haven’t tracked down a proper mount for my car… Turns out the Honda dealership wants to sell me the plastic mount and FOUR bolts for a mere $82. ***rolls eyes***

One thought on “Unsteady Uproot – “Emergency Dismount!” (Thursday, September 12th)

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