Oh, being an eventing fan, it’s fun to look up the results of all the major competitions online — watch the big names compete on video, keep track of the competition scores day by day for the really big three days, and act like a fan – discuss horses, strategy, etc. It’s fun to be a fan. It doesn’t take much time out of your day and it’s not demanding.
To be a rider, however, especially at the lower levels, but aspiring to be an upper level rider, is beyond difficult. It is harder, in my opinion, having done BOTH, to be a lower level rider with a full time job, than a professional rider or horse trainer whose day is only horses.
These days, I am absolutely delighted to be able to ride three horses in a row, or to get a shoe put back on a horse who threw it within two days. The satisfaction of working with a young horse who goes straight all by himself down the centerline, (because I have been practicing going straight down the centerline a lot) is just beyond description. When they “get it” you get all happy inside. Making up horses is so addictive. They actually are doing what you want them to do, and that is what is, inherently, very self-satisfying. We ride green horses because it is our “me” time. It validates your skill as a rider, but it also offers you the positives in other ways. You can get some saddle time and physical activity away from a computer or windshield. You put yourself into another zone, and there’s the time out away from family or business, even if just for a short 30 minute ride. The horse’s responses and ability to learn makes you feel as though you can get something right. Nobody is screaming obscenities at you through the phone, or trying to chase you off the public sidewalk, or diving behind walls because you are carrying a camera and they are probably doing something illegal. (My daily crap.)
When you are full time in the horse business you have much more time to get it right, and the progress is faster when you can ride and school a horse every day. Actually, the little things back then I thought were big things, now with the perspective of time and experience, I can see how miniscule they were. It bothers me that some people do not get that horses are just like any other animal, can be trained with time, doesn’t take anyone special to do horse stuff, no rider or trainer is extra-special extraordinary. When I worked with special-needs riders at a handicapped riding program many years ago, we could teach profoundly challenged kids to muck stalls, groom horses, lead them to the paddocks and turn them out safely, and of course, to ride — steer, manage, balance on the back of the horse independently, and make the horse go where they wanted it to — without legs, or arms, or a complete spine, without speech, some without hearing, sight impairment, and a host of other hugely limiting physical conditions. I often compare things I hear on the COTH board, excuses mainly, to the kids I taught at the handicapped riding program, and you know, you are able-bodied, you don’t HAVE an excuse, really. And if you are upper level, and your horse isn’t winning, it’s not the horse’s fault. You’re full time in this business. It’s YOUR fault. Yes, it is. Get over yourself. It still hurts me that people who think they know something in eventing believe that an upper level rider is somehow on a different plane of achievement, a more difficult path to greatness, than we lower level riders. It is so not true. As I have said before, I know people who wake up in the morning facing a Rolex EVERY DAY of their lives, a difficulty beyond comprehension just to put one foot in front of the other and go on. It is OK to make a hero of a rider; but they have to be hero-worthy, in my book, to be
respected. I would like to see upper level riders respect more than just the check they get from a lower level rider. I would like to see a reform of the attitude of the upper level riders in print, in social media, and in life toward those of us lower level riders. Those of us who get up in the morning facing Rolex every day. And the fanbase a little less Koolaid-drinking, and a little more reality-observing. They make up horses the same way we do. One ride at a time.