No matter what sport you participate in there is most likely a chance to enter a competition. Should you do it? I say yes! I ride horses and there are lots of opportunities to compete in horse shows in all of the equestrian disciplines.
I think there are a number of valuable things that come from entering competitions.
- Learning to set goals. You will discuss with your coach what your realistic goals are and with their help you will set out short term, medium term and long-term goals. For equestrians, this would be deciding what shows you want to compete in; local shows that afford a smaller financial outlay and a more “schooling” show approach to the judging or bigger national level shows which are more expensive and the judging is more rigorous. If you are a dressage rider what level of test are you ready to ride? If a jumper what height of fence are you ready for? What are you working toward for the next show season?
- Learning to plan. Once you have your goals then you and your coach can set out a plan for how to achieve those goals. What do you have to start working on now? Where should you be in your training in three weeks? In six weeks?
- Learning to let go. Even with the best set of plans things can change. When you get to the competition and you are fully prepared, ready to get in there and show what you can do …..BAM…..something happens! A spanner in the works! This can be a last-minute change of schedule, weather, problem at the venue etc. etc. These are things you can have no control over. You have to let it go and go to your Plan B. The ability to let it go is a useful life skill.
Positive people only. If you go to horse shows with other people from your barn or yard it is great if they are all a positive and supportive group. But there may be a negative Nellie or a high maintenance Harry in the group. Since they are essentially part of your “team” you have to live with them. Just give them love and don’t play into their negativity. Then there are your friends who come to watch you compete. The real friends will be positive and supportive even if you have a very unsuccessful show. Then there are the other “friends”. They cannot restrain themselves from telling you how you could have done it better and it is most likely that those “friends” have not competed or been in a show ring for decades. Discourage those “friends” from coming to watch you compete. Seriously! Dissuade them from attending by any means possible. It is very important to surround yourself with positive people. The only people who are qualified to critique your ride are the judge and your coach. My coach has a positive approach to discussing the rides; good ones and not so good ones.
5. The breakthrough! This is the most important reason to compete. Getting out and competing will tell you the truth, sometimes the harsh truth, about where you stand and what you are really capable of. In horse sports, there is always the variable of the horse. Your horse may have a bad day and it may not be your best performance. This can give you the opportunity to learn how to work around that and at the next show you may be able to be better prepared. Whatever happens you will learn a lot from getting into the competition arena. How did your training hold up in the stress of the show ring? How did you hold up in the stress of the show ring? What went well? What did not go well? What will you work on at home to improve?
My biggest breakthroughs have come in competition. There is a heightened reality in competition and things have become crystal clear to me in a way they are not when I am in the comfort of the training arena at home. The breakthrough awareness can be exciting, exhilarating or discouraging depending on what it is. But they are all important, the nice ones and the uncomfortable ones, and both lead to great opportunities to learn and move ahead.
If you want to be recreational rider only that is fine. It is a wonderful thing to spend time with horses whatever you are doing with them. But if you are investing time, energy and money into training and working at your riding then it is important to compete.
And…it can be great fun!
*All the photos in this post were taken by and are the property of Connie Gaube ( Connie Gee). Thank you Connie for these lovely photos. *