In the space of eight days, I made an expedition to a World Championship three day event, survived a major hurricane, worked long days driving 12 to 14 hours in the bowels of a major east coast city, prepared my own horse for a horse trial, decorated four courses at a local recognized horse trial, and oh, yes, competed at Training level; and today, after a needed 10-hour sleep, I am watching Plantation Field International 3* cross-country live on USEF Network. All eventing, all the time!
Hint: I didn’t do all of those things perfectly. In fact, And my horse trial was a bit spotty — my horse is a unicorn — and I forgot to do something to one fence on the courses at Marlborough, which ended up jumping OK — and even the Plantation Field feed is a bit spotty this morning, but we all survived and it’s all good.
I think we get too far along in the perfection department to want to accept “just O.K.” If you read me regularly, you know I am always reminding myself, “This sport is HARD.” And it is. And we don’t appreciate how very difficult it can be when we watch the ease and splendor of our top level eventing athletes at the upper level events.
They make it look easy. I’m still remembering the absolute silken ride of Nicholas Astier, the focus of Ingrid Klimke, the quality of the Japanese riders and the grace of the horses over the cross-country course at Tryon. As a spectator, and big fan, these memories serve you for a few years.
When I am riding at home I think about those riders and try to channel their riding, and I hope others are too, because they were fantastic to watch. Even if all you experienced was TV, please emulate the riding and think about how they approached and prepared horses for the questions, and how their horses responded.
Coming home, driving through a serious rain deluge, I practiced my determination, focus, and patience. Yes, those things in everyday life we need also apply to our sport!
And then I want to talk about sharing the experience, and being a part of a hard working set of folks who care first about the sport, then their event, then how well they can cover every detail. I worked this weekend with a first-time organizer who did a fantastic job with nearly every aspect of a beloved local event. Helping her were caring, above-self folks who are dedicated to the sport, and working with people who are approaching an event with an attitude like this makes it easy to work hard.
If you have a local event who makes a plea for volunteers, it’s your duty to go and help. Even a little bit, and even for just a few hours, and before or after the event if you plan to compete. Every person’s hands are precious, every little act – even bending over to pick up a discarded water bottle and toss in bin — makes a difference. But do a little more if you can!
If you cheerfully approach a task or competition, give yourself positive feedback about your endeavor, surround yourself with people who give you help and support, and show up. Be present. Come to play and smile even if you don’t want to. This makes a difference not only to you but to others, and keeps everything at an even keel.
I am convinced that the smiles of the volunteers at Marlborough Horse Trials kept the rain mostly away and allowed the sun to come out Saturday, and that should mean something.
This sounds cheery and positive, and that’s not to mean all is rosy. Mistakes and poor experiences do happen, and were a part of both of my weekend events, but I’m going to choose to see the big picture here and go away with educational experiences from those not-so-hot moments. “You’re either winning or learning.”
The experience at WEG and at a small local horse trials a week later wasn’t really a huge contrast — it was actually a fun comparison of how shared experiences make memories and fun in a sport that ranges from Elementary to the ultimate, a World Championships. Go eventing!