When I was young (and even not-so-young), showing was everything to me. I didn’t understand why anyone would put in all the hard work we do with our horses, all the blood, sweat and tears, as they say, not to show it all off in front of a judge. How would you know how you were doing if you didn’t get a score? How would you know where you stood?
So when Stella came along, getting her ready to show became my top priority. She was green broke and very lightly started at that point, and I needed to get her going. I needed to get her to my coach’s barn and get training, I needed to get her ready to show. I was driven. I was motivated. I was also setting my sweet new pony up to fail, because it was about that time when her first bout of gastric ulcers reared its ugly head (in fact, you can read all about that here).
Fast forward three years. Stella lives in my back yard with her “sister”, Sunny. Their life is idyllic. They spend their days lounging about in their little shedrow stable, choosing whether to be indoors or out, grazing in their perfectly-managed and meticulously cared-for paddocks, or filling their bellies with the best quality free-choice hay around. They’re fussed over. They’re coddled. Their life is everything I’ve ever hoped it would be. They’re happy.
It’s summer, so all of my horsey friends are out at the shows, getting lovely scores and even lovelier ribbons, telling stories of challenges accepted, goals reached, and horse-show friendships forged. I love reading their updates and seeing their pictures and I applaud them for getting out there and doing it.
For me? I’m just not that into you anymore, horse shows. Little by little, day by day, my priorities seem to have changed. Don’t get me wrong; I’m still very excited to see how far my sweet little Stella can go in her training. I just seem to be happier to explore that in my own back yard. How she performs in front of a judge seems to have taken a back seat to other things. Things like, “how does her mind feel today? Is she settled and happy and ready to work?”, or “how brave am I this ride? Brave enough to go out into the back field all by ourselves?”, or “how are Stella’s manners this week? Should I do a little ground work?”. Some days I don’t even end up riding at all. Some days we work on things like self-parking at the mounting block, or turn on the haunches in hand. Some days I brush out her tail, or pull her mane. Some days I sit on an upturned bucket in the middle of the paddock and watch them graze.
I think that riders need to do what makes them happy. I think they need to do what makes their horses happy. For some people, that’s showing. For some people, that’s clinics. For some people, like me, right now, that’s working quietly away at your goals, challenging yourself every ride, and looking around every day at the beautiful little life you’ve made for your horses. And that’s okay.