The preparation has been done in advance. You’ve dropped your stirrups for one hour of torture every single week. You clipped your horse two weeks ago, but you just trimmed her whiskers and ears once more. Every single item on your checklist has been checked. Your show clothes fit just right, even though you secretly wish your breeches weren’t that tight…but it could just be the Olive Garden you and your barn mates had last night after setting up the stalls at the show grounds.
We compete with the respectable intention to gauge our skill level. To check our progress. We also come to win.
You might have the best flat class you’ve ever had – your heels are down, your eyes are up, your sitting trot is solid. But when you canter past the judge and into their walkie-talkie they say, “trot please,” and your darling, attentive little horse hears them? Before the steward can repeat the judge’s command, your horse is trotting. Too soon to whoa, you lose your place in the ribbons.
How many times have you come to win, and something else happened instead?
The class is so close. You’re rounding the corner to the last jump of the jump-off when someone decides it’s high time they set up their tent right beside the ring. Your horse decides to appreciate their spontaneity by crashing through the jump and artistically sending poles flying everywhere. Goodbye, first place.
You’ve practiced in a covered arena before, and you schooled and schooled until both you and your horse were blue in the face. You’re on deck for your equitation trip at your local medal finals. It’s your turn, you close your legs to suggest that you guys head into the ring and bam. Horse says no. Horse says no, again. Unfortunately, you don’t even make it into the indoor.
You lunged her. You hacked her. She lulled you into a sense of security by quietly trotting around the warm up ring before your class. That is, until it was time for her to perform her Lipizzaner movements and you’re three feet in the air over your saddle.
The judges’ booth has never been a problem for you before. It’s a beautiful 70-degree day, without a cloud in the sky. There’s no wind either. With confidence, you enter the ring and trot down the center line. However, instead of executing what might be the simplest part of your dressage test, you perform a variety of defensive movements to counter your horse’s newfound fear of the judges’ booth.
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The water complex is an obstacle you’ve conquered before. You’ve even gotten your bold little gelding to play around in the water instead of avoiding it. You gallop along with confidence, fully expecting to make it out of the complex atop your horse. He took a detour, though. You sail over his head and into the dirty water he so casually avoided. To top it off, now you need a shower.
Back in the equitation ring, you lay down the trip of your life. Your horse was smooth, calm, collected. You were confident, effective, finessed. You’re called in the ribbons at first place… before you realize your stirrups have black branches and are illegal. You’re disqualified.
Better than anyone, we know how to get up and dust ourselves off and try again. The wins wouldn’t be so sweet without the “other things” anyway.