Eventing Nation: Making mistakes

Fresh off an Advanced-level win at Morven Park, Kate Samuels takes a moment to reflect on… mistakes? Read on and you'll understand.

From Kate:

Eventing is a sport of inches, of centimeters, of tiny measurements and small moments of either brilliance or disaster. Those who pursue Eventing as more than a hobby are a certain cousin of the perfectionist, and yet somebody who understands that perfection is impossible. Mistakes are inevitable, and even those who win the biggest competitions could easily pick out multiple unintentional moments of their weekend. Our sport is both wonderful and perpetually challenging due to our quest for the impossible perfection.

I was asked recently if I was surprised at my win at Morven Park this past weekend. Well, yes and no. The idea behind competing is generally to win, although I believe the bigger picture is to be satisfied with your performance and that of your horse, and if the scores match up, all the better. I think we are all pleasantly surprised when we win an event, but we also believed it was a little possible from the start. To be able to pull all of your skills together over three days, over three separate tests, and simultaneously convince your horse to put in the best performance is a feat indeed. However, isn't that the result that we all work for every day?

At the end of the weekend, no matter what placing I earned, I always reflect back over my performances in each phase, over each jump, and each movement in my dressage test. I read my dressage test comments and think, “How could I have ridden that better? Could I have prepared my horse better for that?”. I re-live every jump, every gallop stride and recall what I liked and what I would have changed. Inevitably, I sometimes linger on the mistakes that I made, and I hold onto those mistakes until I fully understand how not to repeat them.

Plantation CIC3* (photo by Jenni Autry)

Sometimes, as intense competitors, we are ashamed to admit mistakes. We search for other reasons, other variables that could have caused the undesirable result. This shame can be understood as the fear of disconnection. Is there something about me that if other people know it or see it, that I wont be worthy of connection? If I reveal the vulnerable side of my riding, my efforts, will I still be accepted? This is universal, and we all have this emotion.

In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be really seen as we are. The best riders do not shy away from admitting weakness, vulnerability or personal mistakes. Instead, they embrace them, and utilize them as learning tools to avoid similar situations in the future. The best riders understand that the situation they find themselves in is not unique, and in fact has been experienced by every great rider alive. As humans, we cannot avoid mistakes, but the best we can hope for is to learn from them as quickly as possible.