I am my own worst critic. Sometimes my desire to be competitive overshadows some of my own very real successes. But after I am done beating myself up, I usually have a pretty optimistic perspective on my achievements. In the sport of Eventing, it is VERY hard to be consistently competitive. There are SO many unknown variables to account for on any given day of competition. You train and practice to account for all of them. You ride in the rain at home, in case is down pours during your XC ride. You ride without stirrups, in case you lose one on course. You introduce elements of surprise to your horse in schooling, so they don’t have a panic attack when an umbrella flies across the warm up. (All scenarios in which we were exposed to this trip. But I refused to fall off in the rain, and ride the 10 hour drive home with a wet bum!) You should primarily set your expectations to be competent and safe on show day… And if you are competitive, well that is the icing on the cake!
I am now back home in Maryland, from a fantastic trip with Eddie in Aiken. And I am able to reflect on the experience as a proud Mama of one OTTB, and as a rider - proud of her own competence. In the span of 10 days, we competed at two recognized horse trials and one schooling dressage show. At both events, we finished on our dressage score, and took home ribbons. I might be bummed in secrecy that we didn’t take home a blue one, but I am proud nonetheless. It used to be a good day for me, if my old mare didn’t jump out of the dressage arena (yes that has happened), or if she didn’t run away with me in show jump or XC. My goals were much different when I was younger. Now that I have some experience, I am better able to train and bring Eddie along, as not only competent, but consistently competitive. I now feel gratitude, that it is my privilege to set higher goals and expectations.
As someone who doesn’t ride professionally, I don’t get to ride 6-10 horses a day to better my skill. I go to work, leave for the barn around 4 pm, and have ONE ride a day to get it right. I have ONE ride, on ONE horse to practice my skills, and better his. So if you look at it in terms of probability, I have to get 3 out of 3 phases right in order to be successful. Whereas a professional who rides about 6 horses at a competition, has a greater chance of being successful on at least one, if not all. And we all know your odds of winning the lottery are higher if you buy six tickets, rather than one…$$ That being said, I have a great deal of respect for professionals, because it takes A LOT of stamina to be able to ride 18 rounds in one day. But those odds alone make me feel good about myself and my horse’s performances. Because as someone who might be considered a “hobbyist” we have a pretty good batting average!
But horses aren’t lottery tickets (although I would argue I hit the lottery with Eddie), and we aren’t playing baseball. So I have learned to measure success in terms of competence and consistency, rather than did we win or lose. I am very impressed with how my horse handled this entire experience. In a very condensed period of time, he traveled over 30 hours, competed at three different facilities, jumped over 100 jumps clear, jumped in dry and rainy footing, and moved up a half level. All the while, he maintained a happy and positive attitude the entire time! We were consistent in his schedule and care, consistent in our training rides, and that equated to a consistent performance at the competitions. So to have that amount of success, in such an abbreviated period of time, is something to be very proud of. And it is only the beginning of the season!
Overall, this time with Eddie in Aiken has been a great test and developmental experience. I feel as though I have gained a leg up (no pun intended) on the rest of my season and goals. Eddie was already in a great place, and I feel as though he grew up tenfold while in Aiken. We got the first show nerves of the season over with. We finally got the chance to get our first gallop of the season outside on good footing. And I feel confident both in Eddie and myself as we approach the bigger goals of the 2017 season. Now, as I prepare for Eddie’s next competition at Morven Park, I have a clear idea and path of what we need to work on and accomplish. I would love to continue on this path of consistency! My biggest goal of 2017 is to continue producing Eddie (and myself) into a confident, healthy and competent competitor. If I can continue do that, I think I have more than succeeded!
2017 better watch out, because Eddie is coming in steaming! #teamCROSSFIRE