Sunday, April 27, 2014


I am sitting on the couch on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Humby is asleep against me having “suffered” as I watched and cheered as one after another the top 26 or so riders at Rolex completed their stadium rounds. I whooped for some, growled and clucked at horses through my laptop and overall just basked in lovely riding. Thrown in there though were a couple moments where I smirked as I knew that the general public watched a rider from the all mighty 4 star level make a mistake. Now I know what it’s like to ride a stadium round at a 3 day on a horse that has covered a testing and long cross country course the day before. Admittedly mine were at the 1* level but I can say with all seriousness that you aren’t riding the horse you school at home every day. Tired can manifest itself in many different ways. As a result of this, you occasionally can see a Big Name Elite Rider jump up a horse’s neck and watch the rails go flying in the air.

So I watched as Bulletin Boards, FB and other social media sites had comments start about how amazing it was to see a professional “screw up.” Then my mind got to wondering, a vastly dangerous thing, WHY is it that we assign a level of perfection to those who ride, show, compete, train at a level above our own? Horses are unpredictable at every level. Grade one winning race horses have balked and refused to leave the gate. Dressage horses at the World Cup have missed 1 tempi changes and ad libbed their freestyles. Hunters have knocked a rail at Devon and Andrew Nicholson missed a spot at Rolex. This shouldn’t be a shock. In fact I would go so far as to say it’s a given. “S*&t happens” on a daily basis in the horse world.

I find it interesting when people who are coming into and up the beginner-intermediate levels of jumping balk at simple things like a neck strap or holding mane. But if an equine celebrity does it, oh well that’s a different story! So William Fox Pitt uses a neck strap always…. I wave pictures of this in front of the doubters and watch the confusion crease their brows. They thought that using a device to help them wasn’t what big names did so they didn’t because they want to ride, in little ways, like the big names of our sport. Idol worship is great for Hollywood but isn’t as useful in horses where humility can come quickly. People magazine thankfully doesn’t waste it’s time with OCET, Dutton or Martin Eventing or any of the big hotbeds of eventing. It’s true though that Jessica Springsteen, Georgina Bloomberg and Kaley Cuoco get a little bit of Paparazzi at the shows, but so far not many eventers here in the US.

 And here’s another funny thing…….Take Jessica Springsteen, Georgina, Hannah Selleck or others like them and the mistakes they make on a horse are assumed as deserved because they “bought” their way in. WHAT???  This disparity of thought is amazing to me. Nicholson jumps up a neck and pulls a bunch of rails and it’s as if a piece of Mount Olympus has fallen. But watch Georgina pull 1 rail and it becomes about her family’s wealth and the  ‘obvious’ lack of hard work and “you know she doesn’t ride that much during the week” type of garbage. Welcome to the insanity in the middle of the horse world.

I will fast track this post to my bottom line. EVERYONE on a horse works hard. EVERYONE on a horse will make mistakes. EVERY horse can make a mistake, even those who know their job perfectly.  The reality of life in the horse world is that acceptance of our flaws is the biggest key to greater success. And success is of course a sliding scale. Win at Rolex versus getting around a 2’ course of X’s. If you allow yourself to fail and move on from it, you will succeed more. Willam Fox-Pitt knows this, McClain Ward knows this, Charlotte Dujardin knows this and Jody Petty (Winning jockey of 2014 Maryland Hunt Cup) knows this. We cannot be perfect 100% of the time and should never expect that of ourselves or our horses. Doing so upends the balance of self- esteem and the appreciation of the talents of our mounts. When “Fluffy pony” makes a mistake and comes back better you say “It was all my fault. I am a terrible rider, I did this and that then I lost my balance and lost my eye on the next fence…..and so on.” But good riders say… “Oh well. Let’s try it again” and they pet the pony and move on.

The next time you all feel that sense of Idol worship and false expectations coming on; I beg you, hear the wonderful words of Idina Menzel and just “Let it Go.” Everyone you enjoy watching ride successfully has and will ride poorly. And so too will you. It’s all part of the horse life.

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