This might be a little controversial, but in our family winning is fun. I once had a baseball coach tell me that on his team he wanted to make sure all the kids were having fun and winning is fun.
I am not talking about the anything goes; win at all cost, Tonya Harding, type of winning. I am talking about winning because you have worked hard. You and your horse have performed well and accomplished your overall goal; winning a ribbon.
I know I have said, and most would agree, that completing an event with a happy, healthy rider and horse is winning. But can we be real here? We are all friends, right? When I have my Eventing Dad hat on I like Bailey to win a ribbon.
Blue is nice, sure. But really, our mantra for a long time is that we will take seconds all the way to Rolex. When she was 14 this was a running joke, but now that she is almost 19 and Rolex in the next few years is a reality, it is has proven to be a truism.
But what does it take to win? Some luck, sure, but what I have seen is it means taking things slow. We have been very fortunate to have a trainer (another shout out to Donna Kinney in San Antonio!) who would not let Bailey move up to the next level until she had proven she and her horse were ready.
It seems that there are a few different ways of looking at success in eventing. Some parents look at how competitive their child is. As long as they are continuing to grow and become a better rider, there is success in that.
There are also the parents who find success in the level their child is riding, and in many cases, this is a scary way to judge success. These are the kids who turn 14 and their parents push them to be riding at the Preliminary Level.
They are the parents who feel that the trainer is not doing their job if little Suzy is not ready to be on the Young Rider team as soon as she is of age. These are the parents who get frustrated when little Joey can’t finish a cross country course. These also tend to be the riders who we cringe over and are sometimes genuinely scared for.
I hope I am not stepping on too many toes here. We all have attributes of these stereo types to some degree. I do feel that the extreme sometimes fall into the do anything to win category. These are the children who (and this happens in most sports) get to a certain level of success and walk away from the sport, because winning suddenly is not fun. Kim and I have always liked the slow approach.
Through this approach we have seen Bailey excel and really grow to love the sport. We have also seen her be able to move up to that next level and be competitive and safe (this is a relative term in eventing) because she has already been training at that level for months before actually showing at it.
As I said at the beginning, I am sure this will be a controversial topic. However, I will say it again; winning is fun. All the hard work is ultimately put in to win. Is it the most important thing? No and it never should be.
As with all things in life being a person of character is what is most important. We should, both parents and riders, take the same pride in our accomplishments when we don’t win that ribbon as when we do. But we are all after those ribbons. We all like to hang that ribbon on the stall door. Does it mean a show is not fun without winning? No. But does it mean it is more fun when you leave the show with a ribbon? I will leave that to you as the reader to decide.
Kim, Bailey and I will be at the 2014 Nutrena USEA American Eventing Championships with Bailey competing in the Intermediate Championships and the Preliminary Junior/Young Rider Championships. I would love to meet you and discuss!
Good luck to everyone at the AECs! Let’s all have FUN!
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