Have you ever gone to an event and noticed that there exists this inevitable elite group of talented riders? I’m talking about those individuals who win an extraordinary number of events time after time, to the point where competing against that person will become an inescapable fact and, not to mention something you will ultimately dread.
This reality becomes extremely apparent in Area 1, where there are fewer “big name” riders and fewer Olympic type events. And yet, even at these small, local shows, we will see this group of riders and horses who continue to hold their own, and who continue to impress.
It’s as if they’re untouchable. Once you scan through the names on the “accepted list,” weeks before the event, you realize that the blue ribbon will most likely be going to that familiar name that belongs in the elite group of riders.
So, how do you become one of these named riders? What does it take? Why do the good riders keep getting better and moving up the eventing ladder? Who do we get our foot in the door? How do we become members of this elite group, if that is our goal? While I am by far no expert, I have some, how about five, thoughts:
1. Unwavering work ethic
Working hard at becoming a very good rider might not guarantee that you will instantaneously compete at Rolex someday, but I guarantee that not working hard will get you nowhere. These talented individuals don’t nail their distances, have fabulous seats, and flawless positions from not working hard.
They have absolutely put in the hours, and most likely the concept of being a “good” rider is not satisfactory in their books. They long to be great riders, and so they are.
2 Good horses
Let’s be real here for a second. When’s the last time you saw a rider who constantly came home with a blue ribbon while sitting on a “difficult” horse? When’s the last time you saw those elite group of riders go through their dressage test with horses whose heads were the highest point, while standing on two legs for half the test?
I’m not insinuating that in order to become one of these select riders, you need to purchase a fifty thousand dollar New Zealand import. I’m saying, in order to do well, you have to have a decent horse. Obviously the word “decent” is open for debate, but most of us can spot a nice horse when we see one.
3. Practicing relentlessly
To be perfectly honest, I have witnessed first-hand riders who say they want to get better, and yet they fail to go home and practice their suggested homework. These specific riders we scrutinize over at events have absolutely gone home and practiced.
They have all had their ups and downs, but they are anything but indolent and they are willing to put in the hours of time that is required for greatness.
Something I notice about this group of lovely riders is that they tend to be seriously gutsy. Whether they are taking a green horse Novice, or they are taking their seasoned pro around the Intermediate course, they consistently get the job done.
If something goes wrong, and there needs to be a quick, but thoughtful decision made on cross country, they tend to it immediately. They are less afraid, and they are precise.
5. Amazing under pressure
Lastly, and this goes hand in hand with being less afraid, these elite groups go down centerline on a mission, and they enter into the show jumping ring without the slightest inkling of fear on their face.
Whether or not they are nervous, they rise to the occasion and they do not crumble under pressure. They do what they’ve practiced. They appear to look comfortable and they put off an effortless aura around them.
These ideas are not set in stone, nor am I the expert of all experts. I am just going by what I have seen in the last seventeen years of my eventing career. I know a good rider when I see one. So, what would you add to the list, and why?