By Rob Jacobs
As competitive equestrians, we may go through phases of winning and having success so routinely that it may become expected. When this is the case, it’s likely more challenging to comprehend a horse show that was unexpectedly less successful than one is accustomed to. In the world of horses, there are so many unpredictable factors—factors that impact the outcome of our performance that day with our horses. When I was younger, I was very hard on myself. I pushed myself oftentimes too much or too far. I now know it served me well. At times it did work against me. I was in my early 20s before I realized how to compartmentalize and work through those show days that did not go well.
A strategy that works for me is to remember the parts of the individual horse I most appreciate, whether it’s their movement, their consistent lead change, uphill balance or whatever I find most appealing about that horse. I also try to remember that there will be another show day in the future to improve the performance. I’m fortunate that I get to show nice horses for my clients, some young, some seasoned. I will say that it makes it a little easier knowing that when I make a mistake on one horse, one day, I will have other horses and other days to work on smoothing out a particular ride. As a kid, I had just one horse to show, so learning to deal with the disappointing days took practice. Reflecting on a particularly challenging day helped me compartmentalize the day.
Things going wrong may lead to future experimentation and strategy development. Recently, a less-than-ideal day led to me realizing that to keep the horse straight on the way to the jumps, he requires an opening rein. A direct rein can be used as I’m entering the turn with this horse, but he really benefits from an opening rein as he’s turning onto the line of the jumps. It’s usually a more meaningful feeling when a rider has success after stumbling a little with their horse. The equestrian sport gives everyone who participates an opportunity to overcome many challenges. It requires a great deal of courage.
Whether a rider is an adult or a Junior rider, the skills that must be practiced on a regular basis to overcome common challenges are skills that make us productive members in the world and more able to navigate life’s challenges. In my opinion, that’s the bigger picture. Although I have already learned a lot of these skills through horses, it’s very important that I have continued opportunities to practice these life skills. Otherwise, my abilities in these areas will likely decrease.
Winning at the horse show is a great achievement and is also a part of building confidence. As an equestrian trainer, I want my students to have confidence in themselves and confidence in their horses. Although I’m working to build confidence, I also want my students to experience challenges along the way. Having experienced a variety of challenges myself, I appreciate the value that comes along with overcoming those challenges.
I think it’s important for our sport to recognize the long-term goals and purposes of the sport and to prevent ourselves from getting caught up in the individual results of one horse show. I work regularly to encourage skills that will help develop well-rounded human beings. I play a small part in the lives of those I teach, and that’s something I take seriously.
Make a plan that will lead to success and reevaluate that plan as needed.
Photo by Grandpx Photography