I will be the first to admit that I’m a really hard person to please. I always want more, bigger, better… I constantly seek what’s next, and I’m very competitive. Those aren’t such bad qualities in general, I don’t think, but it does mean that I rarely take the time to stop and just enjoy the moment. Today, the day that we’re making our way to Tyler for the American Eventing Championships, I’m going to take that moment.
When Henry did his very first event last November and I subsequently made the goal of getting to AEC this year, at the time it was pretty far-reaching. At that point he had cross country schooled twice, done one event (with a refusal), he really didn’t understand contact at all, and I’d been out of the sport for 12 years. Dressage made my brain feel like it was going to explode, and I couldn’t ride a down bank properly to save my life. AEC was our Mount Everest.
Then he came out this spring and has just gotten better and better as we’ve gone along. He’s been so brave, and so game, and tried so hard for me every step of the way. When you’re sitting on a horse that always tries and really loves his job, it becomes easy to forget just how different things were such a short time ago. We qualified for AEC in only 3 shows and moved up to Novice in June. We actually have the qualifying placings to run Novice at AEC, but would need one more completion at the level. If you’d told me last year that we’d be in that situation right now, on the eve of Championships, I’d have laughed in your face. And yet I had the audacity to be kind of bummed that we’re “only” running BN at AEC… and what a jackass frame of mind that is. I felt guilty as soon as I thought it. It’s not fair to me, it’s not fair to my horse, and it’s not fair to anyone else.
Thousands of people would trade places with me in a heartbeat and I know that. I have to set aside my ridiculous overambition and self-criticism for the next 5 days and just enjoy how far we’ve come. I know that I would have to get really lucky to snag a ribbon in this group of horses, but you know what? It doesn’t matter. This sport isn’t supposed to be about ribbons and awards, it’s supposed to be about the partnerships we make along the way. We’re going to do the best we can, and that’s enough. My goal is to simply enjoy my horse and be ridiculously proud of him for getting us here in the first place.
Henry is a lot of wonderful things, but a dressage star he is not. Neither am I (understatement of the year). He’s come a long way from the horse he started out as and I’d like to think that I have at least marginally improved as a rider, but I know it’ll take quite a while for dressage to really come to us. I also know that BN and N are largely dressage competitions. I’m okay with all of that, even when I’m sitting there pouting about my scores. I owe a lot to this horse… he’s making my dreams come true and saving my ass a lot along the way. On the flip side, he owes me absolutely nothing. He’s goofy, he’s ridiculous, he’s plain, he’s not a good mover, and he’s very sensitive, but he is utterly golden all the way to his core. You just can’t fault a horse for trying too hard to please, even when it comes out in the form of tension in the rectangle.
So no matter what happens over the next few days, be it last place or a much coveted ribbon, I am going to enjoy and appreciate my horse. I’m going to be happy with us and proud of us, and I’m not going to belittle this milestone in our partnership. He is enough. I am enough. This is enough. I adore and appreciate Henry, and I hope he understands that as much as a horse possibly can.
And with that… away we go.