There’s no shame in quitting – You can’t force a talented horse into greatness

 

There’s no shame in quitting – You can’t force a talented horse into greatness

The world is full of incredible examples of triumph over adversity, of sacrifice and of unimaginable effort and dedication. From their first days through to their finest hours, athletes, refugees of war and Wall Street bankers all have their inspiring stories to tell. The sporting world is no exception, and the Eventing world, in particular, is full of tales of those who COULDN’T, but who somehow still DID. There is a unique and much admired toughness attached to the people involved in this game. Boyd Martin, Shane Rose, William Fox-Pitt and even Michael Jung are just a few of the many available case studies, that can demonstrate how digging deep and never ever quitting will reap its own reward. For these riders, performing superhuman feats of endurance is just a thing that you do. The only problem with aspiring towards this approach to our equestrian pursuits is that occasionally, we forget that quitting or giving up on a thing can sometimes be the best solution.

We somehow all seem to want to be the rider that manages to wrestle with some feral gnu of a horse on a daily basis, and who calls it a victory when there are no blood wounds and nobody died. Lots of us fondly imagine that our unique and individual approach – sculpted from many years of the life sodomy that is horses – will be the method that transforms a lethal train wreck horse into an Olympic athlete. Most professional riders are very quick to identify the horses that are not worth persevering with, and the passage of time lifts the scales from the eyes – no matter how talented a horse is, he is useless unless he is willing to find a way to work with you. Riders just setting out on their journeys in the sport are quite often found riding sensible and genuine horses who might not set the world alight, but who will give their riders a valuable and safe education on the good days and also the bad. So what goes wrong in the middle?

Eventing is a hardcore sport, no one would disagree. It is also a cripplingly expensive way to pass the time. Riders with a few miles on the clock and an eye on the long game seem to be the perfect target for ‘those’ horses. You know the ones. The horses that ‘find’ you. Sort of like stray cats. The category choice of ‘those’ horses is quite large. There are the off the track Thoroughbreds, which are often affordable and tend to look athletic and sharp. These horses cause prospective purchasers – with heads full of Neville Bardos and Summon Up The Blood – to go weak at the knees. There are the obscenely talented horses with either absolutely no brain whatsoever, or those who are Ted Bundy reincarnate, that we just KNOW we can sort out and make good. There are horses that are too big, too strong, not brave enough or not really sound. There are horses that won’t listen, won’t try or that try too hard. The main weapon in a professional rider’s arsenal is to be able to get on a large number of horses and to inspire those horses to want to perform to the best of their ability for their rider. However, those of us riding and competing a far smaller number of horses which we also prop up with our day jobs, tend to take a slightly more personal approach. We end up trapped in the script of the film ‘National Velvet’. A little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing. And so the trouble begins.

 

 

We find ourselves in possession of the next Olympic superstar. Sure he has his difficulties but oh wow! Look at him trot! We have a little more time to invest in Ted Bundy horse than the top riders do. We are tough and determined riders, and we can cope with equine ariel acrobatics and any wilful resistance. We anticipate building a bond with this horse that is SO STRONG, that he will go through the fires of hell for us in a headcollar just because we asked him to. It becomes so personal and so emotionally intricate and we believe in this horse with all that we have, even when the evidence to support that belief is frankly lacking. Somehow, our undying and unfailing faith will be the magic key that unlocks the door, and sculpts this unsuitable animal into a sub 20’s double clear machine that Michael Jung himself will beg you to ride. We just get so… blind? Before long, you find yourself slightly dreading your impending dressage lesson on Ted Bundy horse, and feeling like its a victory when he didn’t buck you off. Again. You don’t want to take him for a hack, because he intimidates other road users and he can’t cope if it’s windy. You don’t really want to go cross-country schooling, because Ted Bundy horse takes on an Exocet missile-type quality in a wide open space, and you can’t for the life of you find a bit strong enough or a process safe enough to stop him. You aren’t enjoying showjumping anymore, but if you manage to trot around the 2’6″ class and stay in the actual arena – perhaps even jump some of the fences – well then it has been a good day. You lose sight of the supposed bigger picture intended for Ted Bundy horse, because the everyday goals are such a traumatic ordeal to achieve. However, you can’t quit now! He’s your dream horse and he will take you places! It would be unfair and disloyal to stop. You are best friends…

If this sounds familiar, then you have GOT to STOP. You have got to realize that it is absolutely right and proper to put your needs and requirements ahead of those of Ted Bundy horse. It is ok to say “This isn’t what I had expected, and it is making me miserable”. It does NOT mean that you have failed, or that you are not good enough or tough enough. It is not a poor reflection on you at all. Riders need to be quite honest with themselves. This sport costs so much money and it takes up so much of our lives, so is it not therefore a priority to find a horse that makes this sacrifice as pleasurable as possible? Does it really matter what he looks like or how he moves? And if you do still somehow end up with Ted Bundy horse, is it not more sensible to realize that he isn’t for you? That perhaps he would be better suited to a different rider or even a different vocation? When you really look at this properly, you will see that you are not failing at all. You are in fact winning. You are making a decision that will improve your life. Chances are, taking the weight of Olympic expectations from the shoulders of Ted Bundy horse will be doing him a favour, too.

Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule. There are the middle of the road riders who click with a nutter horse and who end up at Rolex. There are cheap lame horses who come sound and stay sound. There are horses who lack talent but who make up for it in heart and brain instead, achieving the unachievable. There are riders who improve immeasurably on one horse, only to fall apart on another. Overall though, we owe it to ourselves to be honest when things aren’t working, and to be OK about deciding to make a change for the better when needed, without feeling guilty or hopeless. You have to pick to be happy, and that can mean learning to know when to let go. Sometimes you have to quit to win.

Scroll for more top stories on Eventing Connect

History waiting to be made as 19 European nations line up at Eventing Championships in Strzegom | Eventing Connect   Connect with the Strzegom FEI European Eventing Championships action: [Website] [Entries] Germany’s Jung aiming for record-brea…

Hartpury International CIC3* cross-country highlights – VIDEO Break | Eventing Connect   Hartpury International CIC3* cross-country highlights – VIDEO Break Over the weekend, many of the world’s top riders were competi…

Wednesday’s SCOOP from Eastern Hay | Eventing Connect   Wednesday’s SCOOP from Eastern Hay Today’s SCOOP sponsor: Eastern Hay is the premier source of hay bales in Eastern USA.  …

Tuesday’s Top 10 – Working student realities | Eventing Connect   WARNING: Only read if you have a sense of humour Check in every Tuesday for our Top 10 list that could feature just about anyone…

Eastern Hay 770x170-March

Find out how safe barns around the world really are – Sponsored by MD Barnmaster | Eventing Connect   MD Barnmaster is the leader in custom designed barns, horse housing, professional equestrian facilities, horse stalls, modular buil…

Winner, winner…who won the the latest T-shirt draw? | Eventing Connect   Winner, winner…who won the latest T-shirt draw? Drum roll please…… Congratulations to Erin Pullen from Kentucky! As Gam…

bitofbritain-Week1

Heading home after a long night of partying: Horse edition – VIDEO Break | Eventing Connect   Heading home after a long night of partying: Horse edition – VIDEO Break We’ve all had some pretty wild nights out with our frien…

Does your horse rush or drift to jumps? This simple grid work exercise will help | Eventing Connect   Does your horse rush or drift to jumps? This simple grid work exercise will help Your horse has to be able to remain straight and c…

SeminoleWellness2017_770x170

Last Week TODAY | Eventing Connect   Last Week TODAY Catch up on interesting tidbits that you might have missed last week. We work hard to catch all the good stuff so y…

Cross-country schooling gone wild – VIDEO Break | Eventing Connect   Cross-country schooling gone wild – VIDEO Break Cross-country is exciting. Although Eventing involves three phases, all riders ta…

Eventing absolutely slaying it again on Instagram this weekend | Eventing Connect   Eventing absolutely slaying it again on Instagram this weekend Instagram connects the world through photos and eventers love to sha…

Stars, scars and other stuff from this week’s headlines – You be the judge | Eventing Connect   Stars, scars and other stuff from this week’s headlines – You be the judge Another week of fascinating happenings in the Eventing w…

MD Barnmaster-Ad 1-770x170

Things you need to know before riding a fresh off the track Thoroughbred | Eventing Connect   Things you need to know before riding a fresh off the track Thoroughbred Each year, lots of racing thoroughbreds find their way int…

Haras du Pin CICO3* Nations Cup cross-country highlights – VIDEO Break | Eventing Connect   Connect with the Haras du Pin CICO3* Nations Cup action: [Website] [Times/Results] Haras du Pin CICO3* Nations Cup cross-countr…

Jonty Evans’ crowdfunding success delivers 5 worthwhile lessons to help your career | Eventing Connect   Jonty Evans’ crowdfunding success delivers 5 worthwhile lessons to help your career   Crowdfunding is a concept that was or…

Inventive ways to save money that all equestrians NEED to know | Eventing Connect   Inventive ways to save money that all equestrians NEED to know The 2017 equestrian show season is over half way through. For many r…

offbeatsafaris-4-770x170

Stable cats living the dream and getting InstaFamous: Part 22 | Eventing Connect   Stable cats living the dream and getting InstaFamous: Part 22 Eventers are always showing their dogs love via posting adorable pict…

Festival of British Eventing: Corinthian Cup Novice cross-country- VIDEO Break | Eventing Connect   Festival of British Eventing: Corinthian Cup Novice cross-country- VIDEO Break Last weekend, numerous top pairs were competing at t…

Delving into the minds of four-star riders: Boyd Martin (USA) – Sponsored by FLAIR® Equine Nasal Strips | Eventing Connect   Delving into the minds of four-star riders: Boyd Martin (USA) – Sponsored by FLAIR® Equine Nasal Strips There is a significant d…

We are hiring writers and bloggers from anywhere in the world. Must love Eventing. | Eventing Connect   We are hiring writers and bloggers from anywhere in the world. Must love Eventing. We’re looking for smart and passionate Eventing addicts

Rider Connect from Bit of Britain: Rachel Rogers | Eventing Connect    Rider Connect sponsor: Bit of Britain has been a trusted source for quality horse tack and equestrian clothing since 1987. Ri…

Eventing wear with ATTITUDE. | Eventing Connect   Eventing wear with ATTITUDE. You love Eventing and this line of fun clothing is for you to make some noise about our sport. Other s…