4 Thoughts Heading Into The Box

Lila and Skybreaker. Hitching Post Farm. 2013 Lila and Skybreaker. Hitching Post Farm. 2013

In eventing, cross country represents the meat of this sport. I have yet to meet an event rider who feels indifferent about cross country. We’ve all met, or perhaps we know of, or perhaps we are those individuals who abhor dressage, or cringe when it comes to show jumping. And yet, no matter how young, or old, green, or professional, one thing remains a constant: WE LIVE FOR CROSS COUNTRY!

Some things will never change. That precise moment when you and your horse are about to enter the start box. Adrenaline racing through your veins. Your heart thumps rapidly. Your vison becomes narrowed. The excitement and energy could be sliced with a knife it’s so thick and transparent.

Some horses are shying away, other’s rearing and spinning out of pure anticipation of what is about to come, others clueless about the new and unknown experience they’re about to have. Thousands of thoughts instantly are transformed into one thought, emotion or feeling. Every competitor has a different experience. Here are five thoughts that frequently enter my head on the way to the start box:

I think I might puke! Let me introduce myself. Hi, my name is Lila Gendal and I spent the first ten years of my life as a mute. Of course I knew how to speak, though the thought of speaking to other human beings who were NOT my sisters, father or mother was terrifying to say the least.

I am not inheritably bold or aggressive, but I have found my niche in this sport. Needless to say, I do get nervous about heading out on cross country. Even though I am extremely pumped and excited, I will always feel butterflies. In fact, if you ask any of my friends, they will tell you I usually feel as though I need to barf right before cross country. There’s no way around it!

Well, what the hell, here we go! One of the coolest qualities about event riders is their screw it, let’s just give it a go sort of mentality. When push comes to shove, countless event riders are willing to put everything on the line and go out there and give it their best shot.

Sometimes cross country goes flawlessly, while other rounds are atrocious, and everything in-between. There are countless unknown variables associated with this phase, which makes cross country undeniably alluring and nerve wracking for many. Though when push comes to shove, eventers unanimously decide to dive in and give it a go, even if the going gets rough!

Heading out to battle! Last fall I’ll never forget the feeling I had before cross country day. A friend and I were up at the wee hours in the morning, just leaving our hotel and heading over to Loch Moy. As we rode down in the elevator I couldn’t help but think that I was going to war. I know, a very dramatic statement, but your mind can play all kinds of strange tricks on you.

Outside, the temperature was very chilly and a pitch black surrounding didn’t help my motivation. That, plus the fact that I am NOT a morning person in the least. I knew I was about to tackle the biggest cross country course of my life and I started wondering if I was really truly prepared.

I doubted myself and played games in my head. This was a reoccurring thought that morning: Did I voluntarily sign up to do this? Of course after I crossed through the finish flags, I was beaming ear to ear. But those hours and moments before I left the box were unnerving!

Pure excitement! Amidst the butterflies, the nerves, and the adrenaline, there always has been and will continue to be total exhilaration. Why else would we put ourselves through this if we didn’t actually deep down love this moment? Obviously, this emotion depends on what we are sitting on, but more often than not, the word elated comes to mind when I think of cross country.

Galloping and jumping out in big beautiful field and through woods is completely fun and I cannot imagine the day when it won’t be fun. Seriously, it doesn’t matter if I am taking my little Connemara pony Beginner Novice, or going Prelim on my favorite horse Vinnie, the excitement and the thrill is there!

So, what are YOUR thoughts heading into the start box?