I think as riders, especially goal-oriented riders, we have the tendency to feel we must prove ourselves. It makes sense though since there is such a huge emphasis placed on competing in the horse industry. Ribbons and fence height are often used as measures for how “good” a horse or rider is. I think that it is great to have goals, and to refuse to give up them – as I said yesterday in my post Resilience. However, we cannot measure our abilities as riders and trainers by the number of wins we have had; or by the height we jump.
Perhaps we should measure our abilities in how well our horses respond to us, and the relationships we create with them. We can also measure our skills in how difficult the horses we ride are, and how well we handle them. Measuring a rider’s ability solely by their competitive achievements is a huge problem in this sport; for there is so much more to a life with horses than competing!
I have felt so often in my riding career that I need to prove myself by competing; that I am not any good if I am not at the horse shows. I was not a natural when I first began riding, and I had trainers basically tell me that I would never amount to anything in the horse world, so it’s no wonder I have always felt I needed to prove myself. But one thing that I have discovered is WHO CARES?!? Who cares what people think and say! I have come farther than anyone ever thought I would in this sport, and I have stuck with it even during times that it wasn’t fun. I know that my passion, work ethic, and resilience will take me where I want to go. And I am okay with this journey being a long one!
I have found, in these past few years of struggle, that I ride for the sheer pleasure of it. I have discovered that I love small improvements, and solving problems with horses, just as much as I loved showing. I have learned more about horse training, and more about myself as a rider, these past few years than I learned when I competed constantly. I do plan to get back into showing over the next year, but this time it will be because I love it – not because I feel like I need to prove that I can ride.
I also want to encourage any of you who has ever felt like you needed to prove yourself in the equestrian world. Status and ribbons aren’t everything. Fence height isn’t everything. What matters most are the lessons we learn along the way, and becoming a better horse person each day. You have nothing to prove. Just ride.