One of my dearest friends Lee Burton reminds me often that shows are "about the ride, not the ribbon." This past weekend was a great opportunity for me to remember that sentiment as well as pass it on to my students.
The Stables ended last year's local show season with a bang, with several riders going strong in divisions ranging from Crossrails to 3'3"-3'6" jumpers and many, many year-end ribbons and accolades. This year those riders have now graduated on to higher things, such as 2' divisions and college, which means that we start over on the learning curve at the more difficult levels. That also means that we should not be expecting to bring home tricolors at every show.
I had a moment during the show day where I wondered what was missing from our normally successful show program because yellow was the highest ribbon I saw hanging. Immediately Lee's motto popped in my head and I started to review the rides and became more and more excited as I did so. This show was one of firsts, and trials and errors, and happily so many of those turned out for the best!
Champ is a newer horse to our program, and while he is certainly earning his keep as a lesson pony, he showed this weekend that he could make it around the 2' divisions at a show happily. It's always a big plus when a lesson pony can be successful in the show ring, as I firmly believe that like any employee the ability to be well-rounded can only further one's career. Polly and her rider have been working night and day on pace pace pace, and I was very happy that they were able to go around show courses the same if not better than they do at home! The pair is a very cerebral one, so focusing and channeling their nerves is always a battle, but one that they passed with flying colors! Felicity carted her new owner around like they had been paired for a year, and made me immediately envision them in higher courses within the season. Hugo returned to the show ring as if he never left, and yet Quincy acted like he had never been in a show ring before! Like I said, it was a show of firsts...
All of our younger pony riders had a show where few mistakes were made, but they were generally mistakes that keep riders out of ribbons. Many of the mistakes were borne of complacency or lack of attention. Those are always the most disappointing because riders know they themselves can fix the problems with the right amount of focus. However, every once in a while some disappointment can be useful. Riders come back stung enough that their internal fire has been ignited and they work twice as hard to improve. It has been said that failure is a better teacher than success, and I would definitely agree.
I reminded myself that competing in shows and winning in shows is so difficult because you want that blue ribbon, and yet the only way to get it is by controlling your ride. You might not win despite a phenomenal round simply because someone else was better, or had a better horse, or the judge just happened to miss their wrong lead. Much as in life, we can only control ourselves, and so must strive to be the best we can be, or in this case produce the best ride we can. If the stars align we'll get a blue. If they don't, we'll still strive for a better ride next time. If our ride wasn't the best, then we learn from it so we don't repeat mistakes.
While we came home with lots of yellows, whites, and pinks, I think we also came home with plenty of ideas for homework. We had a better understanding of how our horses will behave at a competition, and most importantly we gained some confidence in ourselves as competitors. Our next show is three weeks away; I am excited to see how we improve!