Horse Showing Lessons
This horse stuff is tough! Day in and day out- often, at least in Texas, in very hot temperatures about seven months out of the year. So, there is a lot of sweat involved and hopefully not too much blood or tears, but this is Dressage after all so sometimes we have it all!
I’ve been showing horses in dressage for almost 20 years. There are good days. There are bad days. There are times when you get totally screwed and times when you are gifted with a score you didn’t really deserve.
I think it all evens out in the end. We keep coming back so obviously there is enough enjoyment to keep bringing us back time and time again.
We work so hard at home so we can have (hopefully) five glorious minutes in the arena showing the judge all the amazing work we have done all year training. We come out of the ring, feeling elated! The ride went great! The horse was supple, forward, soft in the bridle and you’re grinning ear to ear.
Then, you get the score...and it’s lower than you could have possibly imagined! It’s like a punch to the gut. You question your feel. Maybe it totally sucked and you have no idea what you’re doing. Or you think, obviously, you shouldn’t be doing this show at this level. How stupid you are for even trying!
Then you get mad. What the hell do those judges know anyway!? How dare they say this, that, or the other about your ride!? What idiots!
Have you ever felt those emotions come through when showing? Oh boy, have I! Every show has its ups and it’s downs. The highs are high and the lows are low. It’s a whirlwind of emotions leaving you feeling exhausted and perhaps in need of an alcoholic beverage!
So, how does one persevere when faced with the injustice of a unfair low score or a ride where your horse was less than cooperative or perhaps a ride where you made one too many mistakes?
Keep in mind, one show is just a blip on the map in the grand scheme of things. Know going in that there are ups and downs.
My biggest tool is to make sure I evaluate my rides on how I feel the moment I leave the arena. If I feel pleased, I won’t let any score take that away from me. I may be frustrated if the score did not reflect my feel but I trust my feel enough to know what was good and what could be improved.
In a subjective sport, we do not have control over outside conditions. I find that at times, each judge has a little different idea of the level of balance, engagement, and suppleness the horse requires at each level and this can affect a score, sometimes quite dramatically.
I’ve had some shows where one day, with one judge I score quite low and the next day, with a very similar feeling ride, I will score much higher.
So, how do we deal with this? We have to understand that this is the nature of things. Sometimes you’re scored low but sometimes you are scored high and it all evens out in the end.
The important thing is to keep showing up. Understand that this journey is about you and your horse, not about the score the judge gives you on a given day.
At the end of the day, our goal is to train each horse to their utmost potential and a show is more than an opportunity to win- it’s an opportunity to learn. It’s an opportunity to grow. It’s an opportunity to expose your horse to new experiences, to new places so that they may gain confidence, and each show is a stepping stone along that journey.
It takes grit, determination, perseverance, faith. Believe in yourself, believe in your horse and in your training. Have faith in the process. Sometimes things go our way. Sometimes they don’t. It’s not about the difficulties handed to us but how we handle them that makes us into great riders.
I encourage you to allow love to permeate through you in your riding. You are love, you are loved and you are always enough.