Showing is a personal decision. That concept is foreign to many people, especially to those “Ribbon Hounds” who will do anything to get a ribbon of any sort or color. Driven by that desire, they find it hard to believe that everyone doesn’t feel the same way they do.
When I first got my horse he was 6 years old and hadn’t done much other than an occasional hunt and trail ride. I was learning dressage but mostly was learning to ride, having never had a lesson in my life. At 54, I was a total amateur. Green Horse-Green Rider. I just wanted to show in dressage. I thought it would take at least a year before I would step into a show ring. As it turned out, 5 months later on a cold (26 degree) January morning, there I was, suited up and trotting down center line. I was beyond excited and nervous, but we made it through. When the dust cleared, we won our class! First show and a blue ribbon. I should mention there were only 4 people in the class. My score was a rocking 58.
For the next 5 years, all I wanted to do was show. Intro B was my test. The Holy Grail was to get a score in the 60’s. It took me 3 years but when I got there, I thought I was on my way up the ladder. Then one day in early spring as I started to plan my riding season, I got out all of my old tests and read the comments. “Needs more bend”. “Hollow”. “Needs to stretch down more”. “Needs more impulsion”. Not exactly Totilas, right? The general comments from the Judge were usually something like “Lovely pair”. “Good team”. “Great potential”. I knew I had to figure out how to maximize that potential and fix the problems. More showing? Nope. MORE TRAINING!! I needed my trainer’s help to teach me how to correct those issues. That has become my journey.
After 2 years of staying out of the show ring, I have more tools in my tool box. My seat has become solid. My legs and hands are quiet. I have learned to use my independent seat and not the reins to move my horse. As I look back now, I am almost embarrassed that I showed with so few real skills. Maybe I get an A+ for trying but when the technical side was a C+ at best, how is it that I have so many ribbons? I drew the conclusion that Judges at schooling shows like to encourage us, so looked for more positives than negatives. Good for the sport but bad for me. I thank them now for their kindness, as hearing the truth back then may have discouraged me, but the reality is, we really were weak in actual skills. The ribbons are colorful and make a lovely display in my office, but don’t mean as much as they used to.
I have enjoyed taking lessons for these past 2 years without the added pressure of THE TEST. I found I loved the small successes and later, the big improvements. I am more confident and a better rider for having focused my efforts. Will I show again? It is likely, but I have become obsessed with correctness. I still need to polish some movements before I put my horse (and my skills) in front of a Judge. When I do, I want to know that I can be competitive at a new level. My goals over the short term, have been checked off, one by one. Eventually we will see if the absence from the show ring was a good decision. Many friends have questioned that decision, but I remained focused. I have to do what is right for me and my horse—as everyone should. I am certainly not critical of anyone’s choices in this regard. Every time I took my horse to a show, we learned something about one another and the sport. Those are valuable experiences. Bottom line is showing is truly a personal decision. I hope to report further in the fall from the center line. See you at X!!!