Yes, we did make it to our show this weekend after one emergency vet visit, multiple test rides under Ms. C’s watchful eye, and a last-minute, Saturday morning visit by our farrier to put Equi-Pak on Ike’s front hooves. Sheer luck, divine intervention or a miracle? Who knows for sure, but what I do know is that there are many take away lessons from this experience that have nothing to do with the color of the ribbon or the number on the scoresheet…although I will admit that I jumped up and down in the aisle of the barn after earning our first qualifying score for the regional finals. But let’s get back to the big picture stuff.
Be an excellent client/student/friend/partner.
Unless you are a superhuman, you cannot succeed in this sport alone. You need a tremendous support team to make your goals come to fruition. You need to be a reliable client for your veterinarian, trainer, and farrier if you need to call in any favors. Be willing to reschedule your appointments on occasion when they need to take care of someone else’s emergency – one day you will be that emergency call. Pay your bills on time. Show up on time to all appointments. Show your appreciation and most definitely, say thank you.
Be kind to your pet sitter so that they will be willing to come let the dogs out and feed them while you are at your weekend show. The kindness is especially important when you have to tell them that you may or may not need them, but can they still keep their calendar open just in case.
Be willing to be the supportive “ear” for your friends so that when the tables are turned, they will be there as you vent your latest horse woes. Saying thank you to them is also not optional. Express your gratitude over and over again.
And lastly, kiss and hug your mate when the rollercoaster ride is over. They might not always understand your crazy obsession with your horse, but they hop on the coaster next to you to wipe your boots, drive the truck, scoop horse poop, and retrieve your tests and ribbons. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.
You are not your score or the ribbon color.
Who among us doesn’t fret about the score we see on the front of the test? Especially when you know that 55% is going to get posted at the show and online for the world to see. Will they think I’m an idiot who cannot ride? Will they secretly smirk and take joy in my bad luck? Before you sell the trailer, turn the horse out to pasture and throw away those sweaty riding clothes, take that test home and read the individual scores used to calculate that final average. Yes, all the scores. Yes, all the comments, even the bad ones.
Once you read the individual scores and comments, you realize that up until your horse decided to spook in the corner when it came time for the canter transitions, you were scoring 6.5s and 7s. You know that those 4.5 marks with “horse looks tense” and “explosive transition” comments are due to the horse getting scared by the judge’s booth (there is video as proof). Yes, you have to take your hits for those moments, but you rode through them and stayed on the horse and in the ring. The judge can only comment on that 7 minute ride they see that day. Come back another day and try again….and get a 69.4% on Training Level Test 3 that wins you the class riding in front of the same judge.
This is a tough sport. In order to succeed, you will most likely fail once or twice or more times than you wish to remember. It will teach you patience and perseverance if you stick with it. You will be a better person for living through the hard times. It makes the good moments that much more special.
At the end of the day, hug your horse.
I think we sometimes forget that our horses are not machines. They are living, breathing creatures with minds of their own. If only we could really peer inside those brains to know what was they are really thinking. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could tell you exactly where they hurt and how bad the pain was? Unfortunately we cannot read their thoughts, so we are left to interpret the symptoms before us as best we can.
We must be the best advocates for our horses and make the best decisions for their health and well being, even if it is not always best for our checkbook or our egos. Had Ike still been off after the Saturday morning farrier visit, I would have scratched my rides. Yes, it would have been disappointing, but it would have been the right thing to do. I got lucky this time. Big Man came back strong and showed everyone just what strong character he possesses. Our horses give us their all, the least we can do is give them a hug.