It’s OK to just… Not

I only did 2 recognized horse trials this year. In the grand scheme of things, that’s… certainly not a lot. Especially considering that a lot of people do that many shows per month. I kind of expected to reflect back on that figure and feel a bit “disappointed”, but truth be told, I’m not.

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Sometimes I have major FOMO when I see other people showing all the time, all season long. Sometimes I stalk the online scores, look for any pictures and videos I can find from the show, and check all the course walk sites to try to get an idea of the courses. And then other times, I just kind of look at everyone’s posts from the show and think “good for them” and keep right on scrolling. That’s it, no FOMO, and I don’t particularly feel driven to follow that closely. Because, to be honest, sometimes it just feels nice to take a step back from it all and take a deep breath.

I feel like we don’t often really see that side of other people though. Nobody gets on Facebook or Instagram to talk about their long breaks, how few shows they’re doing, how they’re taking some time to fill the holes at home, or that they just plain want to slow everything down and reconnect with their horses again. All we really see, and what we seem to be conditioned to crave, are the show pictures and show results… the glossy glamorous exciting stuff. We’re impressed by that, and we want pretty show pictures and results of our own.

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It almost leaves you feeling guilty or like you’re doing it wrong if you aren’t following suit. If you aren’t showing 10 or 12 or 20 or however many times a year it takes to make you “serious”. If you’re not always looking onward to the next show. If your life isn’t constantly consumed by the next jump lesson, the next XC schooling, or trying to perfect that one elusive dressage movement that you just can’t seem to score above a 6. People start asking you where you are, and when your next show will be. If they don’t see you on the entry list, they tend to ask you what’s wrong. Because surely something must be wrong if you aren’t out there at all the shows, right? As if life’s rhythm is dictated by the show season.

A lot of the time, I’m totally ok with that. I love showing, I enjoy it, and it’s fun. Most of the time I do live that lifestyle, consumed by progress and what’s next. But also… it’s not the be all, end all for me. For some people it is, 100% of the time, and that’s fine, but for other people it isn’t. When I start feeling a little burned out or like I want to step back and re-center myself, I often find myself looking at other people and wondering why they never seem to feel like that. How they can go from show to show to show and never want a break, and why I seem to be wired “wrong” compared to so many of my peers. I try to light the competitive fire under myself, or look for shows to sign up for. Sometimes I even do it without really considering if I actually WANT to. There’s this expectation in our sport’s culture that we’ll just keep trudging on, from one show to the next, and so that’s what we do.

I mean, after all, that’s so often how we decide our worth as a rider isn’t it? What level have you gotten to, how many runs have you had, how does your record look? The better it is, the more respected you are, right? The more your opinion matters. So to prove ourselves to the world, and to keep getting those glossy photos and show reports that we so crave, we keep going, always seeking more, because that’s just how it’s done.

But the truth is, it’s okay to just… not. I don’t know who needs to hear this today, but it’s okay to take a step back, for any reason you want, or for no actual freaking reason at all. Don’t feel like it? Then don’t. You don’t owe anyone an explanation, and you certainly shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Sometimes you’re totally gung-ho to just traintraintrain showshowshow and other times it does a world of good to take a few months to ride bareback, or hack out for hours, or just take the pressure off and reconnect with your horses. Whatever. You do you. When you’re ready, IF you’re ready, come back to it – I promise the sport will still be here. Whatever you decide to do has no bearing on your worth as a rider or your validity in the sport. Sometimes we just need to spend some time taking ridiculous pictures of our horses making weird faces, or sew pompoms on our helmets, or do bareback dressage in the field. And we have to stop thinking of that time and those things as a “waste” or something to feel bad about.

We all get different things out of this, and have different journeys. They don’t all have to look the same, and it doesn’t mean you’re any “less than”. Have fun, love your horses, and enjoy the time you get to spend with them. If you’re doing those things, you’re doing it right, no matter how many shows end up on your record.

16 thoughts on “It’s OK to just… Not

  1. I took a step back this year after retiring Marcus. I could have done more USEA events (we did 1) but I guess after last season, I just needed a break and I didn’t want to go just to go, I wanted to be competitive. So I took lessons, did clinics and did some CTs and the break was awesome. I racked up a ton of volunteer hours and finished my local stadium judge’s licence. I had some FOMO at AECs but then I got over it. It paid off, I’m not burned out like I was at this point last year and we did awesome at our first event (would have finished 2nd had we not gotten those pesky speed faults). I hate that often our seriousness or even capability as a rider is tied to how many times we compete….

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  2. I am definitely the kind of person that can’t show all the time. I remember doing it as a jr and… just being miserable. For me, I think an ideal season would be 3 – 4 recognized horse trials in a season. So basically one each month that May and I like to show. (i.e. May, June, Sept, Oct). To me, that is PLENTY.

    Honestly, all I could think as I dragged myself into the office on Monday morning was “how do people do this every weekend?” And I had a very easy horse TO show and a lot of help from my teammates!

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  3. Thanks for this. I only did three schooling shows (one so casual I forgot about it just now) this year. At times I felt sad I was missing out but the money for horse shows had to go to other things this year. I found I didn’t miss the stress anyway and if I can afford to do more next year, I probably won’t.

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  4. Agreed entirely. I absolutely love shows and am so glad I get to go as often as I do, but I regularly need a break to reset and refresh. The past few weeks have been very full of shows/outings and while I’m grateful for how much fun they were, it’s about that time again where I can tell we need a stretch of time to put in some homework and rest before getting back out there. It’s all a cycle that looks different for everyone.

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  5. I don’t think I will ever feel pressured to compete unless I suddenly decide to change my amateur status (which is 100% never going to happen haha). I do love to compete and with the goal of getting my young mare out and about to see all the things, the last two seasons have been admittedly pretty busy. That said, now that I feel we will actually be ready to move to BN for realz and actually attempt a rated competition in 2020, I don’t see the future as being as busy as our past. Between choosing a few rated shows and continuing with Pony Club, I think I will be busy enough! But I do think the FOMO can be overwhelming to some riders and ultimately detrimental to both people and horses. This is a good reminder!! 🙂

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  6. I’ve finally, FINALLY gotten to a place where I live this. I enjoy showing, but it’s not why I ride or what motivates me to improve. I just simply love horses and want to be around them! Lame? Maybe. It doesn’t make for a glamorous IG feed or a lot of blog material sometimes, but it makes my life complete and at the end of the day, that’s what matters most to me.

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  7. I didn’t show much this year either and I’m A-OK with it. I do get serious FOMO tho and end up trying to do ALLTHETHINGS and then I end up burning myself out. I’m hoping next year I can be a little less extra and learn to just do what I can within my budget and be happy with that.

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  8. Generally I don’t care that much about how often I show, but I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself to show Coco. She’s the first “fancy” horse I’ve ever owned and I felt like I owed it to her fanciness to show her. Well, time and dollars just aren’t aligning to do a lot of showing and quite frankly I haven’t had the urge much to show. So, Coco is going to try foxhunting this season! I’ve had the most fun on a horse travelling to foxhunting meets the past year and I’m planning to go to Georgia to hunt every day for a week this winter and I’ll need 2 horses. Coco has the scope and the athleticism to jump 3′ coops so there really is no reason to not take her.
    At the end of the day my goal for all my horses is that they are trained and safe to ride. I want them to always be safe and have a job because that is the best way to assure they don’t end up in a bad situation. Anything beyond that is gravy.

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  9. I will absolutely admit I am burnt out from this show season. The AECs in particular did a number on me, and I really really wanted to take a break but instead found myself positioned to start prepping for the move up to Training- which I’ve been working to get back to since 2005, so I haven’t let myself take the break I want. It’s hard, man, but knowing how lucky I am to be in the position to do all those shows I also don’t want to complain.

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  10. Love this, extra love for the use of Chatlie Mackesy.
    I personally think you can learn and gain more from doing clinics than showing.
    But I have never been a competitive person…
    As an off-side: is Presto actually growing into his ears? They seem less donkey-sized inrecent pictures.

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  11. Well said!

    I figured out, at some point back there, that I don’t need a show to measure where I am with my horse or my riding. I also don’t need to show just to validate the time and money I invest in horses. Or because other people think that’s what having a horse is for, so why would I have a show-type horse if I’m not showing.

    I also figured out that I can have so much fun with a horse at a XC schooling that I don’t need to do a horse trials just to get out there on course. 🙂 If I feel competitive, and have the time and money, then a horse trials is in order, but it isn’t the only path to the 3 phases.

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  12. i’ve been ‘just not’-ing for the past year and a half and while I still need time to not, I think one day (soon!) I’ll be ready to get back into it. And then I’ll do so with excitement and happiness and not resigned obligation.

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  13. I’ve really loved stepping back and figuring things out even if it wasn’t really a choice for me. But I also REALLY miss the show ring. It’s definitely time for me to get back out there.
    The trainer at the boarding barn where Eros lives doesn’t understand at all why someone may not want to show. Maybe because much of her livelihood depends on it? I’m not sure. But it’s an interesting perspective for sure.

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