No horse asks to become the scaffolding that holds up our most sacred hopes and dreams. And yet, there are times when they feel just as much like wrecking balls, shattering the projections of our possible selves that we’ve placed upon them.
The timeline of my own life with horses swings wildly back and forth between success and blinding letdowns, and I don’t think I’m much different than most horsepeople in that respect. But that doesn’t make the lows sting any less.
One of my favorite U.S. dressage personalities (and best trainer ever!) is Jim Koford. An ex-eventer, Koford made a name for himself as a rider who succeeds not because of money or privilege, but from working like mad and making the most of every opportunity that comes his way. (EN’s Samantha Clark wrote a great profile of him here.) After swimming against the current for many years, recently his efforts seemed to be finally paying off: This spring he qualified for the FEI World Cup Dressage Final in ‘s Hertongenbosch, The Netherlands in April.
Koford was super-stoked about representing the United States, saying in an interview with Dressage-news.com, “If I had to put on water wings to get there, I’d put them on and start dog paddling now. I’m ready to rock and roll. I can’t wait to get in that arena and have fun with my amazing horse.” And then, just like that, the scaffolding morphed into the wrecking ball. Earlier this week, Koford was forced to withdraw from the World Cup Finals, citing veterinary reasons.
There will be other competitions, of course, but sometimes life just doesn’t seem fair.
I don’t have any sage advice on how to deal with scenarios like that, whether it’s missing the World Cup or a schooling show that you’ve been working toward for what seems like forever. It’s just another reminder that no matter how glittery the goal may seem, you’ve got to have an appreciation for the journey as well. You’ve got to enjoy each day you spend with your horse because there are no guarantees. Appreciate the scaffolding for what it is–a beautiful, ephemeral gift.