I speak with students all the time about competing. Some are chomping at the bit to compete. Some are adamantly opposed. Some aren't sure. Others don't even know what it means to compete.
Why as Equestrians do we have that desire (or not) to compete? What I've noticed is that many times (not EVERY time), when a student doesn't want to compete, its because they have and they didn't like it. Or, even more often than that, they HAVE competed and the pressure was just too much.
This is why I'd like to ask all of you to remember what we're forgetting. Redundant, right? Uh, hello? Remember what we're forgetting? But seriously. What DO we tend to forget?
This is supposed to be fun.
I'll say it again. Riding, whether you're competing or not, is supposed to be fun. This is a sport that is absolutely underestimated by so many people who DON'T ride. And that's a whole other post, btw. But whether you're just getting into the equestrian sport or you've been doing this for decades (or more), riding is demanding on the body and even more demanding on the mind. It is physically, psychologically, and emotionally exhausting. But it can be so incredibly rewarding that all of those things are worth it to those of us who live our lives immersed in the one moment we see a furry face and a pair of big dark eyes looking at us over the gate. We love the velvety nose and the little sniffs and nickers and... (I could go on forever here).
I was thinking about this a lot over last weekend when I hauled down to Las Cruces to compete. I was with a great group of people. Sure. I was technically "working", but I took Jaxon as more of an experiment than anything else. It's been awhile for both of us. I didn't push the limits on the division we entered. I wasn't scrambling to be in twenty places at once. I wasn't obsessing about anything. I deliberately made my schedule flexible so that I could do what I felt I needed to do whether that was coaching a student, going to grab a Starbucks, or using a few extra minutes to school the water hazard.
And you know what? I had a blast. I enjoyed myself. I didn't freak out about my scores. In fact, I thought my dressage portion was okay, but certainly better than last weekend's schooling, and was surprised to get a much better score than I'd anticipated. There were other little boo boos. But that wasn't the point and more importantly, I didn't let them become the point. The point was getting out there and doing my best and helping my students to do their best too. That felt great! And when the event was done and I picked up that blue ribbon I had a warm, fuzzy feeling of ENJOYING MYSELF.
THIS is what I want for my students. This feeling of working together as a group to support one another. That sensation of being thrilled not only for yourself, but for your barn family. Sharing fun and excitement and ups and downs and all of the other stuff that goes with the equestrian life. A feeling that is not dictated by the color of the ribbons or even getting a ribbon. Either you're satisfied that you went out there and you accomplished a goal. Or, you went out there and you figured out a few things you need to work on, but are STILL able to focus on the small wins. Because no matter how big or small the competition, there are ALWAYS small wins between the beginning and the end.
So, let me leave you with these thoughts. Equestrian competition is a choice. You can choose to take it or leave it. It doesn't determine how well you ride. It absolutely does NOT validate you as an equestrian or not. The point is not how fancy your set up is or how large the group is you're traveling with. You aren't more or less important based on the number of ribbons hanging on your set up either. Showing is about setting and reaching personal goals, about enjoying yourself and having fun with other people who "get" your love of horses and riding. Don't ever forget that.