Yesterday I was competing in a Dressage show. I've only had this new horse a few months and so coming home with two 2nds and a 5th I was thrilled with the day and with London Fog (barn name Ace).This was only my 3rd recognized show with him and the best part for me was realizing our relationship is deepening. Trust is building in both directions and the makings of a good team are evolving.
This brings me to a less happy discussion in a roundabout way. I was cooling out in the warm up ring and a truly gorgeous , huge chestnut warmblood in a double bridle was floating around me , ridden by an attractive man (who knew it) , you know the type I'm sure. Still credit where it's due I always say and he had been smiling on his way by so I smiled back and said "lovely horse you have there". you would think instead of a compliment I had insulted him gravely. His nose shot up in the air and he slowly lifted his head and gazed off over the fence of the ring . I felt like I had been hit in the face with a wet dishrag. The next time he went by I looked at the ground and momentarily ceased to exist.
It turns out he was one of two riders at the show performing a Prix St Georges test. He scored mid fifties, adequate , not excellent. I keep fairly well up to date on Canadian riders of note and had never heard his name so he was certainly not in the running for the National Dressage Team or anything like that. I fully appreciate how much work and money is involved in getting one's riding to the calibre required for higher level tests.I even understand that it could be argued a certain amount of ego is needed to generate the confidence to compete at that level. The sad thing is...it was a true compliment, an admiration of quality, a sincere apprectiation not given lightly.To trample on that as though the compliment were a piece of litter on the ground is beyond my understanding.
I reconsidered my self esteem and decided I was actually much happier on my little grey , who is honest as the day is long , trying his heart out for me , maybe a pat and a sugar lump if I were really pleased. The flash of jealousy I'd had seeing the chestnut's suspension and elasticity melted away like a snow cone on a hot day.The snub still stung but I actually began to feel sorry for the man. He was sitting astride a horse dreams are made of and yet he was clearly not a happy person.Had he realized that even his best efforts were not going to get him to the top? Had he sacrificed horses , friends , relationships and more to get where he was?
I have high hopes for this new horse. I believe it is possible we may do fourth level or even Prix St. Georges given time , hard work and persistence . For me though I want to be sure the journey remains the joy. You will never see my horse at the Olympics. You may , at some point see him in our local paper but this much I know, if you do see us and you smile or say something nice, Ace will cock his ears and try to check your pockets and I will smile back and tell you to have a great day.
Paul Simon's song "SlipSliding away " comes to mind. "The nearer our destination the more it keeps slip sliding away."Love your riding for the ride , love your horse for who they are; not how important they can make you feel.Losing your authenticity and sincerity is a much greater loss than a low score or a bad day.
Often on my way to a show , tacking up or in the warmup ring I find myself in tears. It is not nerves. They are tears of gratitude that I am able to be in a show. That I live in a prosperous country where people can own fine horses and enjoy leisure pursuits.That over the years , so many terrific coaches and mentors and friends have helped me with their sage advice and wise council . That people have cared enough to risk my anger and tell me when I've been out of line or shown appreciation when my work pays off.
I have many goals. One is advancing my riding to the level that man has already achieved but I now have a new goal and i think it's even more lofty. It is to never be swallowed up by and lose my humanity in dangerous ambition. Happy Humble Riding. Libby Keenan