Recently, I had been apart of conversations with two separate friends. These friends are fiercely passionate and emotionally invested in our sport and like many, tend to fall to their knees at the feet of negativity when their 'average' horse doesn't reflect Velegro and they don't break world records. What differs between these two friends is one (#1) often feels she is never good enough, while the other (#2) tends to feel shes doing great then she has a bad ride or goes to a show and doesn't get the results she expected, however their reactions are similar. Regardless, it got me thinking about my own situations and I decided to type this post on my cell as we drive down a winding highway through the mountains on our way home from a fabulous vacation.
To some degree I think those of us who train or ride developing horses tend to succumb to similar heartbreak on a regular (weekly?) basis and it's very easy to forget the feeling of sheer bliss we all enjoyed as kids flogging around on the wrong posting diagonal and loving every minute of it. As we age and learn, we get deeper into the sport and eventually it can often become more of a chore where crushing goals and doing things out of mere requirement trump enjoying being around the animals who give us so much grief. I truly believe a large part of it is conditioned by those around us - coaches, students, friends, proud parents and more.... But ultimately, we get so engrossed in our own selves we get lost in expectation and forget to stop and smell the roses and for what - a ribbon? A cooler? A medal? At what point does the focus shift from horsemanship to a good score or placing? While I am the first to say for those who desire to compete, we spend too much damn money to constantly load up empty handed.. But im also the first to remind myself life is too damn short to be miserable.
When the conclusion to semi retire Kidd was reached, a bitter-sweet door opened where I felt I could (guiltily) buy a horse I truly wanted in every aspect. It took me quite some time to come to grips with it, but I had eventually concluded f**** it - enjoy the damn horse. I love Kidd and he will live out his days on my farm, but I love him partially out of requirement and the simple fact Ive owned him nearly his entire life and we've been through a lot together. His build and temperament is never what I would seek out to buy if I were in the market. In fact, in a lot of ways I sought out the complete opposite - and I love it.
For many years Kidd was a loyal partner, and I was a very dedicated and ambitious rider. I was chasing goals and we have boxes of ribbons and winnings to show for it. We had some fun and everywhere we went we turned heads and impressed people, and I loved that he surprised people. I loved that so much, I may have even loved it more than I loved riding and enjoying my horse. I had to be better, and so did he.... And as a result, he broke down physically and will likely not have the luxury of dying at the ripe ol' age of 30 due to natural causes. While he did *not* have a hard life, he just didn't hold up - but my greed to improve and win aided in speeding up the process and blinding me to signs and symptoms he was executing. I was told by many "oh hes just being a dink" or "really good horses are hot and sensitive and its just because hes so talented", and like an idiot - I believed it.
Its easy to sit on the sidelines and judge those who get upset when they score poorly, or compare yourself to other horses that are the same age, be upset when you place below horses who are just pulled out of the field and can pack a rider around with 0 effort and wow the unsuspecting judges but the purpose of showing is to test your training and recieve feedback (either directly or thru placings) and magnify what areas are lacking. It sucks when things don't work in your favour, but it doesnt mean the world is coming to a crashing halt; it doesnt mean you should quit riding - it means you should ride harder. Without feeling the pain of the lows, would you appreciate the highs as much?
Lets face it - none of us will ever breach Charlotte's World Records, but we can certainly strive to break our own personal bests - and enjoy the journey along the way.