It was brought to my attention last night that one of my barn mates doesn’t want to go to horse shows with me anymore. For no other reason than we compete in one of the same divisions. And if we compete against each other, she is afraid I will place higher in those classes. Therefore, she no longer wants to show with Jorge and I.
I had already decided that I wasn’t going to show this weekend, but if that didn’t make me want to hook up the trailer this morning…!
I’m pissed. No, I’m hurt. I’m hurt because I thought this woman and I were friends. We are the only two (besides her trainer) that ride hunters at my barn. We are the only two who horse show. I thought we had a good time at the very first show we went to in April – the horse she rides is super green and was respectable, Jorge was brilliant for his first time out. It was fun and I was looking forward to having show buddies for the rest of the season, it is just more enjoyable that way (and you have someone to hold him when you have to pee!).
Look, I get it. Horse shows – and all types of competition – are fundamentally about winning. We all want to win, we all want to say that we are the best of the best. No one wants to come home and say that they failed. So I understand her drive to compete.
You all know I love to horse show. Rated, local, schooling, open, English, Western, hunter, jumper… I think the only thing I’m not willing to try is showing side-saddle, but you never know. I have always loved to horse show since I started when I was 5. The prospect of walking in to the ring with all eyes on me is thrilling and exhilarating. The joy I get out of competing is immeasurable.
And you’re damn right, I want to be the best of the best! I like seeing the blues and reds covering my front seat on the way home from a show. But what I really like knowing is that I left it all out in the ring, that we came prepared, looked our very best, performed as well as we could at a new and challenging level, and that I can be proud of those ribbons – they mean something. If we come home with pinks and greens, or none at all, I hope that I learned something about my riding and my horse and am now committed to working hard at home so I can step up our game the next time out.
When I was a pony rider starting out on the rated circuit there was a young woman who was one of the premier pony jocks in the Midwest. She got all the great catch rides, she won the majority of her classes and she never acted like a spoiled brat. In the beginning she usually beat me when we competed against each other. In fact, she rode my pony at Ledges once after I flipped over an oxer and broke my thumb. Still a little shaken, the pony needed to have a confident trip back in the ring and I needed to see someone get her around the course while my nerves settled. Yet, I never told my mom or trainers that I didn’t want to go to a horse show where I knew she was going to be, I just wanted to work harder and kick her ass next at the next opportunity!
Jorge and I will never hit it big time, and that’s fine. While showing at Capital Challenge may be on my bucket list, by the time we can afford it we’ll probably both be too old to do more than the Rusty Stirrup, praying they don’t jog either of us for soundness. In preparation for that day I work very hard to improve our performances while still having fun. I usually ride 6 days/week. I do gymnastics and trot poles and work on my equitation, but also hack in the field and trail ride. I’m wholly committed to my sport because I love it, not because I want to see only championship ribbons adorn my mantel.
We aren’t competing at Devon, I’m showing on the little local circuit here in central Virginia. The shows are low-key, have decent jumps and are very affordable. I like that I have to wear a hunt coat, I appreciate that there are multiple classes and opportunities for us to move up slowly, which is exactly what we are doing. At our very first horse show we jumped the 2’ and added a stride in each line. The next time out we were confident enough to do the horse strides. Last weekend at the show we tried our hand at 2’3”, which admittedly needs a little work 🙂 Every time we push ourselves within reason. I’m not trying to rush this horse, we aren’t prepping to be ready for the High Performance Hunters next year, but I’m not content to settle for winning just because we can – I want to know I’m challenging my self and my horse to be better because I know we have it in us. We aren’t looking to claim any hollow victories, we need to prove our chops against the best of our level.
I guess I’ll just have to go it alone for now, which is fine. I’m sad I won’t have a local horse show buddy this summer, but I’d rather enjoy my time out there than worry if it will be awkward on the drive home. We all have good days and we all have bad. We are all at the mercy of a subjective judge who either likes our horse or not. That is the beauty of a competition in the hunter ring – the unknown.
So if you see a cute bay horse that appears to be tied to a port-o-pottie this summer, you’ll know I had to go!