Why winning really isn’t everything.

With competition season looming, I just wanted to write a short post about the meaning of competing. Obviously for those of you lucky enough to be in the rosettes every time you compete, there’s not much to say – that’s great! But for those of us who aren’t, it really really is not the end of the road. I love competing and I don’t always get placed, especially in show jumping – the classes are enormous and intimidating and I can never quite get the speed to be in with a chance. But it doesn’t matter, I just love doing it. Of course I’d love to win – we all would, but honestly – the only person you should really be competing against in these things, is yourself.

That’s how to keep up your spirits, and that’s what it’s all about. Yes, aim high. Yes, aim to improve and get better. If you scored 60% in your dressage test last time, make it your aim to score 61% or high this time. If you went for speed show jumping the other week and knocked a pole, try and aim for a clear but focus more on the quality of your canter and the overall picture. There’s always reasons to keep going, and no body suddenly gets placed all the time at the drop of a hat. It takes work, time and determination.

My instructor also told me something that inspired me today, and that was:

“I don’t tend to win on my horses, I just move up.”

By this she means that she does enough to qualify, or does the best she needs to in order to move up to the next level without bothering to stick around for a red rosette. This, in my opinion, is far more rewarding and impressive than always winning at something you know you can do. If you don’t ever push yourself where’s the challenge? Often people ask what level you compete at, but they don’t tend to then say “how often do you win?” I mean, going to the extreme – I could compete in a medium advanced dressage test and get 30%, but still truthfully tell people that I compete at that level. Clearly that’s to the extreme, but why always get placed in intro and prelim week after week, when you could be scoring decent if not great scores at novice or elementary? Progress is key.

This is why having goals is so important. It keeps you on track for improvement – on track for progression. My goal is to compete at BE90 this year, and BE100 next year. I know I’m not a professional in any way, but my goal is not to win at BE90, it’s just to do it (sucessfully – i.e going clear!!). If Yanny goes round a BE90 course clear, or even with one or two faults, I will be over the moon.

I think that’s another key thing to remember: compete at a level where, even if you don’t do as well as you’d hoped, just doing/completing it is an achievement. This way competing won’t be such a nerve-racking, intense thing – and you can just enjoy progressing with your horse!

I know I said I’ll keep it short, so I won’t say much more. So if you take anything away from this post, let it be this:

A dressage test lasts four minutes. A show jumping round lasts one minute. Don’t let a few minutes define a lifetime of progress with your horse.

Anything can happen in those minutes – everyone has bad days or can crack under pressure – so just keep trying and you will achieve!

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