Eventing: A Sport of Comparison

AK Waller is 18 years old and a senior in high school headed to Auburn University in the fall. She’s looking forward to joining the Intercollegiate Eventing League team at Auburn.

AK Waller at Pine Top Intermediate in February 2021. Photo courtesy of Liz Crawley Photography.

Eventing: a sport we all know and love. A sport that we have grown to appreciate throughout the years. It’s all great and an amazing environment, but it’s time we talk about comparison. Comparison is seen all throughout the equestrian community and the world in general, but today I am talking about eventing in particular. As a young eventer I am constantly learning and bettering my riding as well as my outlook on the beauty of this sport, how individual it is. Although it is a sport that focuses on you and your horse as a pair, comparison is still widely seen. Comparison is found in many ways; the main views I will be speaking on are social media and comparison to yourself, the healthiest form of comparison.

Social media has evolved greatly in the recent years. It’s a beautiful thing to share your life and to document your progress as a rider. It’s a very nice community but filled with comparison. As someone who is active on Instagram daily, I have not only compared myself but I have also seen other comparing themselves. Sometimes we can’t help but do it because things are shoved in our faces. We are all growing and learning and, frankly, it’s great that people are doing so well – but at what point is the time to stop talking about it? The constant comparison in skill, finances, and horses is extremely abundant. There isn’t much that can be changed to stop comparison, as it is a personal thing people experience, but there is a way to learn how to be proud of ourselves and not flaunt it.
Social media has become a place full not only of support but also full of juxtaposing.

We as riders look up to many pros and young riders, which is completely healthy. At some points, this admiration becomes comparison. Learning to keep our ideas in check and knowing the fine line between comparing ourselves and idolizing someone is important. We have to be aware of the difference in us and the people we look up to. There is a reason we look up to the people we do: to give us motivation. They started somewhere just like we are.

There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Comparison of level and age is something I have seen and something I have even done, and still do sometimes. There is no age limit to a level, only certain requirements for safety. This sport has no age and that is something I believe we should all love about this sport. Thanks to this idea we can all be eventing until we down bank into our grave (morbid, I know, but simply a metaphor). So how can we learn to be content with where we are and not compare ourselves to people who have been in this game longer than we have?

“Content” is a hard word because, frankly, it’s hard to be perfectly content all the time – but we can learn to be content in our own progress. I say we because this is something that I struggle with still. There is no reason to be ashamed of the fact that comparison is in your life; after all, comparison is everywhere.

What if we started to compare ourselves to, well, ourselves? Where would that get us? If we ventured back to us when we first started riding, think about how impressed little us would be. Little us would idolize us now, no matter our level. Comparing yourself to yourself is the best way to do it. When I was younger I watched a show, I’m sure you watched it too, called Horseland – only the best show for young equestrians. Something that I will always remember from that show is the quote, “Compete against yourself and no one else. Go for your personal best!”. That has always stuck with me and it’s something I try to live by, but we all have flaws. It’s ok to be competitive, and it’s ok to want to win; but don’t let it define you.

So from this I am trying to help us see the good and the bad in comparison. There is healthy comparison, more commonly known as looking up to someone, but at points it becomes negative. Don’t let your idolizing become you putting yourself down for not being at the same point other people are. We all started at different times and we all grow at different rates. Compete with yourself first and others second. We are doing our best and that is all that matters!