I have always thought of Dressage as a metaphor for life. So many of the attributes of a good Dressage rider are the same as those that lead to a successful life as well.
The other day I found myself wondering why I am such a proponent of competition. It's certainly not that I am independantly wealthy or on my way to the International Leagues. More than likely you will find me coaching a youngster in a field somewhere local and/or if those things progress trying our hand at the Provincial Circuit or occasionally heading over to Michigan for a show.
I think rather than ambition or winning being my primary goal , it is the learning and development that comes with competition that I value. Mind you , no one gets up at 5.00 am. to go out and lose so clearly we set out to excel. Sometimes the result is just that , sometimes the losses are just as meaningful.
In a day and age where instant gratification seems to be the norm rather than the exception, taking a horse from green schooled to show ring is a long , often arduous and frustrating project.This kind of committment will pay off later in life for young people wishing to enter almost any field.
I considered what attributes a future employer would seek from an applicant. Self discipline, motivation , hard worker , good organizational skills, excellent communication, healthy life style , positive attitude, willingness to accept responsibility , willingness to continue learning, integrity , honesty, goal setting ability and a positive attitude at all times even in light of difficult circumstances.
These are the very same qualities needed by a successful show rider.
In these difficult economic times many shows are adding many more novice classes to increase revenue so there is no need to be an expert in order to experience moderate success showing your horse . There are many divisions from Novice to Grand prix so plenty of room to go as far as your horse , funds and talent will take you. Believe it or not it is not necessary to be rich in order to find a circuit to participate in. There are plenty of competitions available for almost every budget of horse owner/rider.
Working toward competiton gives a rider definable goals to reach within a specified time . This virtually guarnatees that your horse will be worked often enough to be fit , therefore healthier and groomed often enough to catch any problems before they become disabling.
These days everyone is incredibly busy: work , family , other activities are all vying for a limited amount of time and money. It is easy to say " I'll ride tomorrow , or next week and so on". How many times have I seen boarders who don't compete acquire a horse, shower it with attention and a few months later show up maybe once a week , then twice a month and then to pay the board?
I believe human nature requires a certain amount of pressure ( even self-imposed), to remain motivated.
Entering a competition at the appropriate level for your skills keeps an edge of excitement and anticipation in your riding that tends to bring out one's best efforts even though the show may be weeks or even months away.
Yes , there is politics in showing , yes we may not be on the top horse and no , we may not always be at our athletic best but competing imparts a studious and professional approach to the economic and athletic use of our equestrian dollars and leisure time.If we are competing we are among a group of riders who often tend to research more , seek out competant coaching more often , avail ourselves of resources leading to better and more effective riding and horse care.
To sum it up I would have to say that coming home with ribbons or trophies is no doubt great fun and very satisfying but in the end I really suggest at least limited competition to everyone because win or lose , you and your equine partner truly Cannot Lose :), the experiences you gain will benefit you both for a lifetime. Happy Showing.