WARNING: Uncensored language. But all in fun.
Competition season is over so it’s time for your reality check
At this time of year, event riders everywhere are at a loose end. It can be a dangerous time financially-the temporary respite from astronomical event entry fees combined with things like Black Monday, can lead a rider to feel like they have a few quid burning a hole in their bank accounts. Between extreme boredom, event horse sales and fancy horsey winter wear catalogues, in no time at all you can have yourself convinced – and justified – that living on beans with no electricity for Christmas is a GREAT IDEA. Event schedules for the following year are up online, equine misdemeanours of the previous season long forgotten and timers are already set and counting down to 4:00 am on the 10th of March 2018. After the customary five minute long post-season holiday, you have approximately four months to try and convince your camels and llamas that they can improve their dressage, pick up their toes with better efficiency, and learn to potentially enjoy leaping gleefully over gaping abysses and monstrous timber things. It’s a strange time of year.
For some of us, it’s a time to take a long cold hard look at reality. Much like facing your mother in law whilst carrying a stinking hangover, this can be an unpleasant experience. An end of season overhaul and evaluation – with one eye on the following year – can leave some riders foaming at the bit and wishing Christmas would just bugger off already so they can get on with things. For others, it can be a rather more sorry state of affairs. Whilst most things are achievable or fixable, some things are not and that’s when it’s time to make changes.
An event horse at any stage of his education ultimately has to love going to work. It is not a sport for the work-shy, couch potato horse, nor is it a sport for the schizophrenic and/or entirely deranged horse. A good event prospect doesn’t really need wow paces and a flash jump. He doesn’t need a gold-plated pedigree or a massive price tag. He just needs to want to work, to try hard and to be genuine for his rider. After that, all things become possible. You can train the jump, you can grow the paces but you can’t replace or patch over a genuine desire to get stuck in and give it a go. The seemingly average horse can often go further than you could ever have imagined, and make at least some of your dreams come true.
In my lifetime thus far with horses, I have encountered brilliance and mediocrity many times over. I have seen spectacularly athletic and promising horses fail to deliver, and I have seen some alarmingly uninspiring horses go on to become absolute stars. I have ridden an impossible lunatic with a million issues, but who went on to be probably the safest and most reliable jumper I have ever had. I have prayed to every deity possible when facing a solid obstacle on a basic yak, only to find myself surprised, alive and still in the saddle when said yak performed with aplomb. I have occasionally hit the sweet spot of riding a talented, sane horse and briefly felt like I knew what I was doing, but that’s quite rare. I have every faith and patience for any horse who does his best, and luckily for the most part, the majority of horses fall into this category.
However. Some don’t.
I myself am currently not enjoying a necessary stroll down reality avenue. I have a horse in my yard who has god given talent, a massive and very careful jump and wonderful paces. However, as the saying goes – god gives, and he takes away. This horse is as dumb as a rock, and completely gutless. It is the single most frustrating animal I have ever encountered, and believe me, that’s saying something. My own confidence has been eroded and I feel like the only option left for the time being is to do pure dressage. Yes, you just read that. Fucking DRESSAGE. I have no objection to dressage as part of the sport of Eventing or Equestrian Triathlon or whatever it’s called now. But to pay ACTUAL MONEY to trot around a rectangle in the pissing rain as a full-time thing? Yeah. No to that. As a hysterical displacement activity, I have started perusing stallion brochures. I feel a bit like Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz, taking the scarecrow to find a brain. Or the tin man to find a heart. Or a lion to find courage. Any and all works in this particular case…
So as the postman groans under the weight of your idle-handed purchases and the horses enjoy their brief downtime as feral gnus and buffalo, have a think. What do you need to work on? Did you meet your goals for 2017? Is your horse enjoying his job and making progress? Is he the right horse for you, or are you struggling horribly but not prepared to quit on him because he has talent? Or because you love him, and you’d feel somehow disloyal admitting defeat? Remember that it costs just as much to keep the wrong horse as it does to keep the right one, but the hours of your life you dedicate to each horse are non-refundable. If you do find yourself on the miserable end of a tough decision, it’s not all bad-it is the festive season after all, so drowning your sorrows in Eggnog and mince pies is entirely socially acceptable…