“Why spend so much on a hobby, I couldn’t do that.”, “What’s the point, is it really worth it?”, “It’s not like they’re pursuing it to make the professional/big leagues.” These questions being along the lines of what I have heard personally and I am sure parents, equestrians and other sports persons have been posed with similar.
Over the past few years I have distanced from equestrian sport in terms of participation. The mixture of time, money, travel and education being at the forefront. I have however gone to numerous equestrian events and even wrote my masters thesis on the sport. It was the other weekend at the Paris leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour, standing by the warm up ring in the pouring rain, soaked shoes and jeans, whilst the pros carried on, that I realised how much this sport had gave me.
Thank you equestrianism.
It’s taught me plenty of things…
- Lets start off with this to make things clear.
- Not all devils wear horns…ponies for example. No matter how cute.
- Not all heroes wear capes…school horses, honestly bless all of you.
- Perseverance and sometimes just having to let things be
- You could be having personally the worst day ever or in some cases your horse (thoughts are with those who have chestnut mares). Things won’t be going right no matter what, sometimes its just better to get off and wait for another day. Thank your horse despite your mood or theirs.
- Your horse comes up lame at a horse show where you have already nearly shelled out a grand (RIP bank account). All you can do is continue to care for your horse and spoil them endlessly at this point.
- The terrifying garbage bin where you horse thinks the boogie man lives, you will persevere and go by it one day without an Oscar worthy performance.
- You are SO CLOSE to nailing an exercise or movement. Keep going, it will happen.
- Being humble
- Nothing like getting dumped in the show ring in front of the cute ring crew who aren’t paying any attention to you while they reassemble the jump you just took out with your body or worse, in front of the ONE judge you really wanted to impress.
- You win some you lose some. You could be on top of the world one weekend, the next…dirt, injury or simply just not having your day.
- Accept yourself and your flaws as a rider.
- These animals are powerful and most of the time (99.9%) get the last laugh. Don’t be idiots around them.
- As the great pony illustrator Norman Thelwell said..
“Never try out novel ways of getting into the saddle, you’ll enjoy quite enough variety getting out of it.”
- Work Ethic and Discipline
- My idea of a great weekend at age 12/13 was dragging my parents out of bed in the early hours to then be dropped off at the barn for nearly 12 hours, sometimes even sleeping over.
- Sweeping 24 stall barn aisles and helping complete morning/afternoon chores. Why? Enjoyable and work meant free rides/lessons. Hard work pays off.
- Getting up at the crack of dawn or not getting up at all due to show preparation. Shout out to all you night braiders.
- This is a biggie. Sacrificing MEALS. Running on endless coffees/teas or random snacks, whatever you can get your hands on.
- Being responsible for yourself and horse on show days. Going over your list and tack box a million times mentally. Essentially it should feel like you are packing for the slight chance an apocalypse could take place while you are away.
- NOTE: By the age of 15 you will emulate your mother and not leave the house without a coat as this has been learnt from the various climates at various horse show grounds.
- Team player
- You and your horse are a team. You and your barn are a team. Support your fellow riders and horses. Be selfless.
- You’re the first one to arrive at the show grounds? Check on the other horses also and not just your own.
- No one has time for cattiness in the barn or anywhere for that matter.
- You have a pony bought from a back yard farm or horse from an international grand prix yard, you are not above or below anyone. Refer to Being Humble.
- This probably being the biggest thing I have taken away. Wait, work and the results will definitely show. This may take weeks, months or even years! But trust me the feeling you get once your goal is accomplished.
- Pony mad children, your time to have a horse/pony will come. This requiring the most patience. At nearly 23 years of age, I am still waiting to come downstairs on Christmas morning to a horse beautifully wrapped and laying under the Christmas tree.
- You will meet some of the strongest women and men. I am not just talking physically. But mentally and emotionally, some of these people have taken everything life has thrown at them.
- They have learned to experience defeat and victory in the same day.
- Don’t Judge (only in the show ring is this allowed)
- You certainly meet the most interesting people with the most interesting stories.
- Honestly I could write a book on this #WatchOutJillyCooper.
- Practice Makes Perfect
- “One more time.” Never actually means, “One more time.”.
- You won’t always see eye to eye with people or horses in some cases and that’s okay.
- In short, me and Cobs are not friends.
Maybe what it’s not taught me…
- Shopping will power.
- YOU NEVER GO TO A TACK STORE FOR “JUST ONE THING”.
Please, these are some of the best years of your equestrian lives. Make the most of them, be a barn rat, spend hours learning, watch your coaches or professionals if you have the chance. Competitions aren’t everything and stay humble. Mostly, bond with your horse, make lifelong friendships and simply enjoy.
And if you are ever wondering about the meaning of life as many wise trainers have said, the answer is always, “More leg.”.