There’s really no way to break this to you sweetly, so here we go: If we are at a competition, I’m definitely noticing your turnout and that of your horse. And I’m not the only one. Your presentation in terms of cleanliness, tidiness and overall appearance says more than just how much washing you did yesterday, but speaks volumes about your daily care routine. Whether it’s your tack or your horse’s coat, it tells the story of your commitment and overall attention to detail. In a larger sense, appearance isn’t just superficial, but rather it shows how much time and effort you are willing to commit to your success, no matter how small the deed.
For me, it’s all about personal pride. I know that I work incredibly hard, that I sacrifice a great many things to be able to compete in this sport. We all do. Every time I take a horse out, no matter what level, no matter what public or even private occasion, I want to show the world how proud I am of the work I’ve done and the wonderful animal that I have the pleasure of riding. If I can’t be proud of that, then I’m doing it wrong. To fail in the last detail of ensuring a good first impression would be simply an insult to all of the long days of hard work.
The turnout of your horse is not a reflection of luck, nor the number of grooms and experts at your fingertips, but old fashioned, good horsemanship and attention to detail. Being an equestrian is about nothing if not those two things, and it shows in your equine presentation. The care of your horse shines through (or doesn’t) through good nutrition, daily grooming and the right program for each one.
In terms of looking appropriate for your competition, it’s all about that extra step. Did you take that time to braid them well enough to look neat? Did you use a whole bottle of purple shampoo? Did you bang your tail and clip your bridle path and trim those whiskers? Did you care enough and take this seriously enough to put in the extra effort? I get it, Aiken, you’ve had no power for a week. But really, even without power, you can give a horse a serious wet towel bath and scissor trim. It’s all about your dedication, and it shows through.
Think about who we admire in our sport — the professionals that we ultimately look up to the most. We respect them because they are incredible athletes with a wonderful set of highly tuned skills, and it shows. Think you can catch Jan Byyny without a perfect hairnet all the time? Think again. Wonder if William Fox-Pitt’s horses ever look like a pig pen when he’s riding them? I doubt it. If I want to achieve any success, small or large, I expect to have to be just as attentive as these fine folks. We should all aspire to their level of horsemanship and personal presentation, because even if we can’t ride in four-stars, we can match their daily care.
You might say, “Oh, Kate Samuels, she’s just being a snob!” and you might be right. However, for me, it’s all about respect for the grand animals that I get to work with. If all of us can agree on nothing else, it’s that we’re all here for the love of a horse. To me, part of that love is doing the very best that I possibly can at all times to prove that I’m worthy to work with these equines. That means pride in presentation and doing my part to match the product. And, at the end of the day, if I don’t have the perfect ride, or perfect score or perfect result, at least I can say that I looked damn good doing it.