When I first sat down to write what is now my customary post-show “what I learned” blog post, I admit that I was a little stuck at first. On paper it would be pretty easy to be disappointed with how Greenwood went. Worst dressage score ever, worst stadium ever, and worst total score ever. It wasn’t an event that anyone would like to have in the middle of their fall season, two weeks before Area Championships.
I kind of wanted to just sweep it under the rug, shrug it off, and pretend it didn’t happen. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that I actually learned quite a lot about myself and my horse in “failure”, if you want to call it that. And the things that I came up with as learning points were so much BIGGER.
I learned that even when all else seems like a loss, Henry will still come through on cross country. He gets braver and smarter and more clever with every show. Of course, changes for the better in some areas can sometimes mean changes for the worse in others. He’s not a machine and neither am I. That’s what makes this sport so ridiculously hard – it’s three very different phases that ask completely different things of the horse and rider. Growing pains are to be expected, I suppose, and Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’m not William Fox-Pitt and Henry’s not Ballynoe Castle; we’re just doing the best we can. It’s okay if sometimes our best just isn’t that great.
What I also realized, after I moved past those silly little feelings of failure, was that I still had a blast. I crossed the finish line after XC smiling from ear to ear, every bit as “high” as I always am after running cross country with Henry. It’s such a joy to be galloping and jumping a horse that absolutely loves his job, it brings me a level of bliss that nothing else can. And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? I spend my life scrimping and saving and eating a lot of Ramen to afford this sport, and not because I get ribbons and glory in return. I do it because of the sheer joy the horse and the sport give me, and that joy certainly does not hinge on a score or ribbon. A score does not define us, so why was I letting it? It tells you nothing about my or Henry’s story. It’s just not a big deal.
I also learned that even the worst day at a horse show still isn’t a bad day at all. Lauren wrote about this a while back in her post Attitude is a Choice, with the poignant phrase “Isn’t it a luxury to have a bad horse show?”. It absolutely is. Spending the weekend at a beautiful facility on the back of a horse just can’t possibly be that bad, no matter how it ends. If the worst thing happening in my life at the moment is a bad horse show, things are going pretty darn well.
Either I’m getting better about this whole attitude thing or the loss of my mom in August really highlighted what’s important vs what isn’t, but my perspective has changed. A year or so ago a show like this would have definitely spurred a few private tears and I’d have felt pretty defeated/humiliated, but this time I was still all smiles on the way home. Here I am, four days later, still smiling. I feel lucky to be able to do this at all, even when I do it badly, and I still feel nothing but euphoria when we cross the finish. At the end of the day, the circumstances don’t matter. Nothing is permanent, for better or for worse… all you can do is enjoy the ride.