I can’t help it. I have always been competitive. My entire family and extended family are big board game players. Some of my earliest memories are of playing board games with my brothers. Since my brothers are all older and, in their minds, smarter than I am, they usually won (by cheating or by skill, though most often by cheating). An insane desire to win grew in my little heart.
As I grew, it grew.
Naturally, as a masochistic over achiever, I was drawn to Dressage.
The tricky part about riding Dressage; you must temper your desire to achieve in order to nurture the horse’s desire to perform. I mean, he or she did not ask to participate in the sport. We chose for them.
Dressage is a complicated sport that is physical, mental and spiritual for the rider. At the same time, the horse is asked to submit to complicated and athletic movements. So, our strong desire for perfection, both in ourselves and in our horses must be balanced with kindness and empathy for our partner.
The horse’s needs must come first.
So, what does this have to do with Nationals? I brought two horses to nationals. Petie and I are simpatico. We are a team. She will work for me no matter what. I just need to manage her confidence level and anxiety at the show.
Lorix and I haven’t known each other for very long. I’ve had him just over a year, and he had not been worked the year before I got him. In Dressage time, this is like a snap of your fingers. We haven’t had time to get really good, to get on the same page. To really become partners.
When we arrived at Balmoral Park, I realized the competition had improved over the years. If I could ride clean, Petie could win her division, but I suddenly realized that Lorix needed to perform to his absolute best, and I needed to ride well in order to get into the Top Ten. The funny thing about Lorix is that he is full of shenanigans. He is all boy and likes to screw with me if I am stressed. When he canters, he likes to twist his head and pop up his butt, nothing dangerous, but more of a disruptive “Fabio moment”.
So, as my hyper competitive heart created a work plan for him until his class, focusing on the areas that I thought I could supple up before the test, Lorix decided to wind up his butt for popping up at the canter. Every single time. I became crazy. Every time I rode him, all I could focus on was the naughty canter. Accordingly, it became worse and worse. Two days before my test, my mind stepped in and put its hand on Ambition’s shoulder. Quietly, it whispered, “Let it go”.
Let it go? How could I improve before my test? Let it go. I realized that the last thing I wanted to do was make Lorix hate this. I want this horse to have a long, happy career. He is an awesome athlete and has a fantastic work ethic. I was going to ruin his attitude. So, I let it go. I clearly wasn’t going to change the canter before Wednesday, so quit. Focus on what he can do well; let him feel successful.
Immediately everything changed, we began communicating again. The poison of my ambition had leached into other areas of the test. When I stepped back, he stepped up and did his best. Funny thing, his canters improved and, as I relaxed, so did he. Not one moment during the test. Lorix was US Arabian Sport Horse Nationals Top Ten Second Level (Half Arab) Open. Makes you think.