Horse sports are made up of a variety of different types of people. From the rich and famous, to those of us that work our riding in between full time jobs and family commitments. We trudge through the mud in the dark in winter and look forward to the day daylight saving finally comes around again. We cherish the weekends and the minutes we get to spend enjoying our beautiful animals.
For those of us that fall into that category, mostly we enjoy some modest successes but are often beaten when it’s all said and done, by the professionals. It can be disheartening at times to know that all your hard work is overshadowed by the results of our more experienced counterparts, who are also working hard but get that extra time in the saddle, that gives them that extra edge in the show arena. I am guilty of sometimes thinking “why do I do this?” When I have a bad ride or a bad show. It is a lot of money and effort to put into something that doesn’t seem to be working, at that moment in time. I never give up however, and the thoughts are temporary, simply due to the fact I love my horse. There has never been a day, no matter how catastrophic, that I would have preferred to put someone else’s horse on the truck to take home ahead of my own. That is how I know I am winning at the end of the day- ribbon or no ribbon.I know I am not alone out there, so if you are in a rut, or just need some motivation to get out and ride in this heat, hopefully this insight might help you!
First things first, horses don’t share the same goals we do, they have no comprehension whatsoever why we do what we do. If you are training them right, then they enjoy their work and are happy when they see you, but they don’t share our goals. They are simply doing what they are asked because they are genuine creatures who want to do the best they can for us. If you enjoy your horse on the good and bad days, then you are winning before you even get in the ring. Nothing else matters. It makes no sense to persevere with a horse you don’t enjoy, just to win some ribbons. It isn’t the five minutes in the ring, it’s the hours and hours of effort that it takes to get there that is the part we should be enjoying. The ribbons are the icing on the cake. You treasure them when you win them but at the end of the day the most important thing is standing out there in your paddock, looking forward to your company when you visit. When you appreciate this, you find yourself enjoying far more success because the two go hand in hand. It is not about the glory of the prize, but about the life you share with your amazing partner. Enjoy the show but enjoy the process more.
Horse shows are a fantastic place to catch up with old friends and make new friends. Unfortunately due to the competitive nature of the sport, friendships can break and feuds can begin over matters that in the scale of things, really don’t matter. The only person you are competing with is yourself and you are only as good as your last score. No matter where you are finishing in the field, better yourself. We all have good and bad days, even the professionals. People don’t stay on top forever so be humble in your victory and gracious in your defeat. It is the people that make a sport, so enjoy the people that share the same passion you do. If you look past the competitive aspect of it you will find most of these people are your type of people, who can make life far more fulfilled and enjoyable!
Never forget that if you find yourself in a field of the best riders, you may not win but you will be better for it. The better the standard that you compete against, the higher your own standards will be. Embrace a tough field and make it your mission to be as great as you can. Make it a habit to celebrate others victories like you would celebrate your own. Don’t let competiveness ruin the sport you love.
Every result, good or bad is the benchmark for your next competition. Often a ‘bad’ show can result in some soul searching and a good, hard look at your training that will see you on to better days. I would also like to emphasise at this point that lack of a ribbon does not mean it was a bad show. All through my last season of competing my young horse at his first shows I made it my aim to always be in the top ten or there abouts. Sometimes I got ribbons at the big shows and sometimes not! I still found myself a bit disappointed to often come 7th and ribbons were to 6th but the main thing was we were making progress for bigger things. Give your horse and yourself a fun experience and boost your confidence for next time.
Most of all remember that the big guys were little guys at some point too, they worked hard and through combinations of luck, ability and good horses they moved on to better things. I honestly believe that every horse is a good horse, every horse can be improved and every single horse has something to teach you. If you think you are too good to ride a certain horse than you have an attitude that won’t set you up for success.
Persevere, but most of all enjoy your victories- in training and at the shows. Set achievable goals and love what you do every single day. If you can do these things I have mentioned then you are already super successful and be proud of how far you have come. Appreciate where you are now, don’t get fixated on the future or you will never be satisfied. Ride for the child that loved horses so much, she couldn’t wait for the day she got her first pony. The 'little' you would be so proud!