We’ve all seen that meme. You know the one… the one that compares “your dream” verses “reality.” Well, it really is an effective reminder that, even if things are seemingly not going your way, you should keep your head up and keep pursuing your dreams. After all, without the downfalls, would the victories even feel that good?
This past year, I have been working with my young Off-the-track-Thoroughbred “Eddie” towards achieving our goal of competing at the Waredaca Classic Three Day Event. It is a beautiful and well run event for anyone who wants to experience the long format style before it forever dwindles away. The officials, judges, volunteers and organizers were wonderful and always helpful. My boy Eddie is only seven years old and this is his first full year competing in eventing. I thought it would be a wonderful event to give him experience and prepare him for future overnight or FEI events. And it was that and much more!
BUT… we fell just short of placing in the top ten come show jump day. We finished eleventh, which meant no victory lap or recognition around the arena. And as I walked out of the arena after that fateful rail hit the ground, tears welling up in my eyes, I felt like I had failed. I failed myself, and most importantly my horse… My young, brilliantly talented, and beautiful horse. I immediately forgot all of the good things that happened that weekend. I forgot that just the day before; he gave me one of the best rides of my life on steeplechase and cross country. And that I came off the course with a smile beaming from ear to ear, greeting all of my friends and family at the finish line.
I forgot how good it felt just to cross that finish line at a three day.
Of course, the training three day is no Rolex. But it meant a lot to me. A few friends and officials caught me on my walk back to the barns after show jumping. And a few friends messaged me after the fact. All of them congratulating me and consoling me with the typical, “Hey, you completed! That’s all that really matters!” And they’re not wrong. I was immensely proud of Eddie, but not myself. I have put my heart and soul into this horse, and this sport. And I have high expectations for myself; my goal was to be competitive. And frankly, eleventh place is not something I personally am striving for. This was supposed to be a summation of our season together. And in my head, I was going to knock it out of the park… But, maybe I still did and just hadn’t realized it yet.
This was only Eddie’s sixth run at training level. I forgot about all of the other competitions and successes he’s had leading up to the three day. And we still finished on a very respectable score and went double clear XC in a long format event. I forgot about all of the rides, lessons, and schooling that go into preparing for an event like this. I neglected to put things into perspective.
Now I’m not saying you should settle for mediocrity. Don’t ever be afraid to set high standards and goals for yourself. Because learning to accept disappointment is a HUGE lesson and character building aspect of this sport. Then, when you finally achieve your ultimate goals, they will feel so worthwhile. I went into this competition knowing my horse was capable of a top ten finish, not just a completion. Trust me; I am still devastated I did not take home a pretty ribbon. But I realize he did his job brilliantly, and the mistake is on me. And I can accept that. As bummed as I may feel, there are a couple dozen other riders who are wishing they had the weekend Eddie and I did. And then there are another dozen who wish they could have even made it to this event. We all feel this way sometimes, and that’s ok.
I guess my biggest point is… It’s easy to get bogged down and dwell on the bad stuff. Unfortunately, we often lose sight of all of the things we have accomplished. But at the end of the day, if your horse is happy and healthy then you’re probably doing something right. You have three phases to get it right… or wrong in eventing. Making a small mistake in one is really not a big deal at the end of the day. That is the beauty in our sport. EVERYONE has those days. One bad ride, does not make you a bad rider. I know I will have plenty more show jump rounds to get it right with Eddie. So don’t lose sight of the small everyday accomplishments. And remember, it’s about the journey.