Competing Is Great

We all know how non-horse people view the ?importance? of competition. I remember a conversation with someone at a non-horse function who asked what type of riding I did. When I said dressage, the person asked if I showed. ?No, I used to,? I said, ?but it’s an expensive, time-consuming endeavor.?

The response was abrupt: ?Well, my friend rides dressage, and SHE competes,? clearly insinuating that this somehow made her better. And maybe she is ?better? than I am, but the fact that she wins ribbons isn?t what makes the difference.

I spent more than 20 years competing, mainly in the hunter/jumper ranks, as a child, teen and young adult, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I earned my share of ribbons, and I learned a lot of life?s lessons along the way. While I have now reached an age where I no longer care what someone else thinks about what I do (or don’t do), I know a comment like that can be frustrating.

My advice is to simply consider the source of the comment, as the words show that the speaker has no understanding of the sport. No one would automatically ask someone who plays golf if they’re part of a tour. As with most sports, riders who compete are in the minority. Competition is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to owning a horse. Dedication to proper care, correct equitation, and thorough training is.

I have a friend who has an impressive upper-level dressage warmblood that she has no plans to compete. She takes lessons regularly from more than one trainer, and sHe’s dedicated to pursuing dressage properly. The horse is light and through, and she rides beautifully. She has a gorgeous stable any professional would be happy in, and she does all the work herself in addition to being a full-time veterinarian and mother. If she wanted to show, she would be very competitive, but she rides for her own enjoyment.

On the other side of the coin, We’ve all heard stories of upper-level competitors doing horrendous things to their horses and/or discarding them when they’re no longer able to perform. Clearly, showing isn?t necessarily a reflection of your ability or your horsemanship.

A reader responded to my blog with this observation, ?The numerous horse associations and organizations need to recognize that there are people who want good horses, and will care for them, enjoy them, but not necessarily show them. . . . In today?s market, amateurs need to be acknowledged, not just in the show arena but as responsible riders and owners. And, yes, if we can afford it, we do deserve to ride ?good? horses, well-bred and well-trained.?

Competing has its peaks and its slumps, but it doesn’t make you any better or worse of a horseperson. The passion you have for the sport and the commitment you have to your horse is what makes the difference.

And it doesn’t matter if your horse was a freebie or you paid six figures for him. If your horses are happy, well cared-for and you ride for the pure enjoyment of it, you’re a true horseperson. don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise.

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