Misery loves company so eventers are never lonely – The Eventing 90/10 rule

When your horse starts running back to the trailer at Mach 9 it can cause you to feel some fear...


I began the competition in 3rd place after dressage on my 6-year-old, Devil Munchkin (aka Kermit) at his first CCI1* event. By the time the event was over, I was not even in the ribbons. I felt a bit gutted. Show jumping was a nightmare. It was like I had forgotten how to ride completely, and there was a big crowd gathered around the arena to witness my train wreck. Quite frankly, I felt so humiliated that I was wishing I were riding a gopher so we could dig ourselves back to the stables to avoid having to see anyone. My coach, Clayton Fredericks, calmly went through step-by-step what my shortcomings were during the round. After analyzing my round with me, Clayton could tell that I was very down about the whole competition. He then began to remind me of the positive things that I achieved that week. I began to feel less inclined to just go slit my wrists and more inclined to work on seeing a better distance. This was my first season riding with Clayton and earlier he had explained to me, “Eventing is 90% disappointment, 10% success.” This saying rang true at that CCI1* event; 90% of it was a disappointment and 10% was successful. But this saying reflects this sport the majority of the time.

So why do eventers keep pushing on pursuing this crazy sport when 90% of the time they will feel the sting of disappointment? That feeling of triumph and success that we feel 10% of the time is the best feeling ever. Think back to those events where the stars lined up for you. Remember when you left the show grounds driving in your truck feeling on top of the world. That feeling is what eventers live for. Eventing is a tough sport. It is grueling both physically and emotionally. So when you beat the odds and have a perfect event, you feel a high that nothing else can give you (who needs drugs, alcohol, or sex).

Personally, I find the 90/10 rule only applies to competitions. This does not come into my realm for the training to prepare for competitions. I do not get off of my horses when I am schooling them at home until I feel that I have achieved a mini milestone. Whether it is my 3-year-old cantering an entire lap around the arena for the first time or my two-star horse doing his best half-pass, I will not stop my ride until I feel satisfied. Perhaps I am maniacal, but I cannot dismount until I feel a little success-induced rush. So I am always conscious of that small little improvement that will make the day great. The only times I have left the barn on a normal day feeling like I just got kicked in the ribs, is if something health related is wrong with one of my horses. This is usually out of my control because I am also maniacal about their care and I know every bump and contour on their bodies as well as what temperature everything should be.

An eventer’s drive to improve on a daily basis and seeing small and steady improvements is what keeps us in the game. As I have grown up, I have seen many riders quit riding and go to school and not because their parents were cutting off financial support but because they had enough of Eventing. All of these riders were kids who did not enjoy the training rides. Their parents would force them to ride consistently and basically were dragging them to the barn. The kids only seemed to stick with it because they loved going to the events and bragging about the occasional ribbon. However, once they aged out of Young Riders, things got really hard, very fast. These kids could not handle the reality that getting on a team was not so easy anymore and in fact almost impossible. Competing against the pros meant ribbons became a rarity.

Do the pros that make it to the top of the sport achieve success more than 10% of the time? No, on average they do not. The riders at the top have a different set of goals for themselves than riders who are still aspiring to get to their first four-star. The ultimate dream most riders have is winning an individual Olympic medal. That means every four years, there are three really ecstatic eventers who won medals. But considering how competitive eventers are, only the gold medal winner is deep down 100% satisfied with their result. Even Mark Todd who has won two individual gold medals is still hungry for more and does not win every event. The 90/10 rule does not discriminate and Eventers keep on competing for that small chance of success.

You either love Eventing or you do not. To love this sport you have to thrive off of the daily training. Success at events is not something you should rely on to feed your contentment. But you also have to have a burning desire to achieve great success as that is what fuels you to train so diligently. There are many factors that have to come together in order for you to win an event or just achieve the result you desire. When plans fall apart, remember you aren’t the only one at the competition disappointed. Misery loves company so you are never lonely as an Eventer. Do not forget that 90% of the time it will NOT go to plan. But hang in there for that 10% of the time when it all goes right. It is all worth it and hard work does pay off, just not often enough.

Why do you keep Eventing?
Email me with your reasons. We would love to share your story.


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