Moderation is a virtue when it comes to planning your horse’s competition schedule, explains Lila Gendal.
Throughout our lives we learn all about moderation. Many of us were lectured as children to not overdo things. Too much of anything isn’t good, we were often told. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, so eating fruits and vegetables is a good thing? Yet, eating 1,200 apples in a day might kill you. Similarly, everyone needs to drink plenty of water. Well, how should we define the word “plenty”? Should we drink four glasses of water a day, or 24? How much is too much and how little is too little?
This whole moderation concept can be applied to our riding and our horses. Riding seems to revolve around not overdoing any one thing, and yet there is no such thing as the same moderation for any two horses. Every horse has their own middle ground, and as riders we need to know where this middle ground is. As our horses become stronger and as the summer unfolds, we have to change how we measure “too little” versus “too much,” and that fine line between overdoing things and not challenging ourselves and our horses enough.
I’m assuming I’m not alone here when I say I come stumbling out of the indoor every spring feeling awkward, unsure and most of all NOT READY. The not ready I’m referring to is the not ready to compete yet. How many of you suffer through horrible winters months up north because of jobs, school, family, significant others, money, etc.? How many of you dream of packing your bags, your trailer and heading south for the winter … and I mean ALL WINTER? Don’t get me wrong; I am one lucky gal to be sitting on the two beasts I am currently riding, and of course I am very fortunate to have access to an indoor riding arena, but I think there might possibly be a little tiny bit of whining room here. I’m a Vermonter and that’s how we’re wired!
So there I was in the dead of winter desperately longing for spring. Opening dates for spring events were creeping up, and I knew I wanted to enter some event but felt torn doing so when I saw icicles out my bedroom window. How many of you filled out entries in January or February sort of thinking to yourselves that you were nuts, or that there was no way you and your horse would be ready to compete in April or May? If you raised your hand to this question, you are not alone.
Spring FINALLY arrives and creatures start flocking around the farm. Of course, my biggest fear is Denny coming home only to find an unfit horse and a rider who have lost a whole bunch of training. Before my first jump school with Denny, I usually feel a wave of eagerness combined with terror. You want to start off on a good note, and you don’t want to be told that you look like a troll that’s been sitting in an indoor all winter … even if that’s the truth. You basically want to feel like you are more or less picking up from where you left off the summer before.
At last, the summer unfolds and eventers all over the country are kicking into gear and what a great feeling it is when you and your horse are finally on the same page! In my opinion, there doesn’t exist a cooler feeling than this. There is not a better feeling than being really competitive toward the end of the summer because all the hard work you and your horse have done together has finally paid off. Of course there are lots of riders that start out their seasons on a high and keep going up and up as the season progresses, though I am more interested in those folks who started off their summers retiring on cross country, or being eliminated or scoring a 50 in dressage to ending their seasons with ribbons and clean cross-country rounds! I am interested in the masses.
Now that I have taken you through the four season in New England, how and when do we call it quits? If we are on a high with our horses, when do we say enough is enough? When do we decide we are NOT entering one more event? When do we decide to end our competitive summer? These are not easy questions to answer. How many of you feel like you and your horse are at the highest point in your summer right now? How many of you feel like you’re on a roll and feel like it wouldn’t hurt to do just one or two more events?
Perhaps we know when enough is enough from experience and time. A lot of this depends on YOU and YOUR horse and how much you have already done this summer. A lot depends on money and time. Some of us are parents and have kids going back to school. Some of us have full-time jobs and careers that won’t allow for extra events. Some of us don’t want to risk our horses by competing too many times. Everyone has their own story and everyone ought to know when enough is enough, but it sure can be difficult at times to make those conscious decisions when things are going exceptionally well!
LOVE HORSE NATION? “Like” us on Facebook for all the latest news, commentary and ridiculousness!