I’ve been competitive my entire life. I’m not sure if the figure skating started it, or if I was drawn to figure skating because of it but I’ve never known a period of time where I didn’t want to be the absolute best at something.
First it was double sow-cows and flying camels. Then it was riding horses with 4H shows and much later, IHSA equitation. When I took a break from riding during my time in MA, I turned to plastic horses instead and showed those (which yes, is a thing). Then when I moved to Texas, I eventually found Simon and spent countless hours and dollars turning him into the best show horse I could. I can’t think of the last time I’ve had a horse, or really any hobby, without a directly competitive goal.
But now? I haven’t shown since the hunter derby in April. Most of that was due to the fact that I knew I’d be going to school, and needed to re-allocate funds to other areas to prepare for my big move. That’s what I told people at least, but honestly — I haven’t really wanted to show.
I’ve taken lessons here or there, and I’ve worked on things with Simon at home at times… but typically we just putz around. I ride him for my enjoyment and the mental release I get from sitting on my horse. I’m so fortunate I have a horse like him in my life that can be my friend during this life transition, but it’s a little strange.
When I went to the horse show this weekend, I was struck with this odd mix of relaxation and regret. Watching the bobbles in the ring and stresses that come from showing, I was thrilled that my horse was happy munching hay at home and I was spectating in yoga pants with a cup of wine instead of boots and breeches (also probably with a cup of wine, because that’s how I roll). Later when I watched the hunter derby and a series of rounds that I knew we could beat, I felt myself wishing I was doing a hand gallop to the last oxer with my best friend.
The next day when I went to the barn to ride, I actually put on boots and put Simon’s jumper tack on. We warmed up with a proper trot, transitions and haunches in. I picked out a few loopy courses of singles, got a lead change and ended with a super fresh horse happily cantering up to a 2’6″ vertical and launching over it like it was 3’3″. Despite the heat and dusty ring, we both were smiling.
Simon is fitter and better trained than he’s ever been. Earlier this spring when I had the vet out for injecting hocks and a lameness check, he said Simon looks better than he’s ever seen him. This is his prime, and I’m about to whisk him off to California to be my pet during grad school.
Part of me feels a little sad about this, and I have some regrets. Ever since I got Simon, I wanted to point chase at our local circuit towards a year end award. It’d be a very attainable goal if life hadn’t bowled me over on my ass for the past two years. In the five years I’ve had him, this horse has made so many of my dreams come true, but now I’m chasing other dreams.
They’re worth chasing, but I’m a little tired of hearing myself tell people how I don’t miss showing. I guess that dialogue is sounding a little tired and dishonest, because this weekend I had a hard time believing it.
Right now I’m having to remind myself that horses can be a lifelong sport and commitment. Just because I’m not showing now, does not mean I won’t be in five or ten or who knows how many years. I’ve always done my best to keep Simon physically fit and take exceptional care of him, and I hope those efforts are rewarded with a long history of performance soundness for the both of us.
Who knows, maybe I can swing enough part time jobs and boarding luck to find a situation where we can show a little bit in the next few years. Stranger things have happened. Until then, I’m going to try my best to be thankful for my horse on his own and remember that riding is about so much more than the pursuit of satin.