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We Are Flying Solo

April 30, 2011

Why Do We Keep Doing This?

Solo's had the week off while I have been dragging boats through the mud at work.  Even while being attacked by nettles and mosquitoes, I was coasting on a multi-day post-horse-trial high. 

I finally got back in the saddle in today's perfect sunshine and we took to the woods.  Between flushing turkeys and quiet rat snakes, under crying catbirds and bickering redtails, there was plenty of time to breathe and think.

Shouldn't you be annoyed, my brain queried?  You finished LAST, out-competing only those poor souls who had the shoddy luck to get eliminated.

Yeah, I told its annoying whine, but 2/3 of it was a GREAT ride.

I made mistakes.  Big mistakes.  I'm pretty sure anyone watching me thought, oh dear, that poor girl, who let her in?  So by all rights, I should be mad about it, right?

Here's the thing:  I'm still thrilled about it.  And THAT is the reason I love this sport, the reason all my friends are rolling their eyes because I sound like this:  "eventing horse horse eventing eventing eventer horse jump eventing eventing horse evented eventing."

It's because at the end of the day, it's not all about the ribbon.  Although note that I will still squeal like a little girl if I ever win a ribbon.

But what it's all about is my journey with my horse. 

It's all about how exciting that round, powerful jump felt underneath me on Sunday because that jump didn't exist two years ago.

It's all about the lessons in pace and balance I finally managed to digest and apply to my courses.

It's all about seeing myself finally starting to THINK while I am riding.

It's all about my pride watching my red horse grow and develop into an athlete.

It's all about the sheer joy of watching his ears search out and lock onto obstacles, showing me that he knows and loves his job.

That is why I'm not mad.  Because the only person I am competing with is myself.  The only test is whether we can go out there and put in a better performance than we did the time before, whether we can conquer harder tasks with a more developed skillset.

Because when we're out there on course and my center is balanced over Solo's and I can feel the energy from his hind legs finally pushing up into the bridle and I can fly on the arc of his bascule over a broad table, I know exactly what it's all about.   When I can feel that, it doesn't matter if I am first or 20th or 500th.

There, in that moment, there is no question why we do it.  There is only the doing and the fervent hope that we get the chance to do it again.


  1. same here! I went to a jumper show today for practice, didnt care about ribbons, just getting GREAT rides! I didnt want to rush my horse over fences just to win a ribbon. Although I still got a few, I didnt try. Its all about riding your course well and learning :) LOVE your attitude

  2. I love this post :)

    And he does have great ears!

  3. Hee hee hee, I am addicted to the red ears, Jen!

    Maybe I would feel differently if I had a horse who DID win, I don't know. But I know going in that Solo just isn't going to consistently pull down 24's in the dressage ring no matter how hard I wish, so there is no point in driving myself batty chasing scores.

  4. I wish I could put my selfish competetive nature in the closet where it belongs. I just can't seem to enjoy the competition journey.

    Well done. I am so very proud of you and Solo!

  5. Gorgeous photo! Solo is so red.

  6. Thanks, Val! That one's from last year, when we were both younger!

  7. I realized a long time ago that what mattered most to me is that my horse and I went out and did the best job we could on that day, for that course, and if that landed us in the ribbons, great. There were always nicer horses and better riders, but we had a blast and did our best, and heck, sometimes we even came out ahead. To me, that is what this is all about... sounds like you and I have similar opinions on the matter!

  8. You have a great attitude and you were grinning from ear to ear when you came back.

    It is all about the love.

  9. What a great post! I was chatting with Mom over the weekend and the conversation To the point that she asked "so, how's the rest of your life, like, you know, your *husband*?". I just said "fine" and then spent another ten minutes describing how much fun I'd had on a recent gallop. Oh well! One of the things I love best about eventing is the fact that you, really, do compete with yourself and look for long term improvement. It's so satisfying!

  10. Haha, Jennie, I have the same problem -- everything else is just details!

    jenj, exactly -- we will always aim for our best, but I will not lose sight of the forest for the pesky ribbon shaped trees!

    lh, it's impossible not to grin after running a course, it's just that good.