Lila Gendal poses a provocative question: “Are we stronger or weaker competitors when we have something besides our horse to live for?”
I recently heard this provocative statement from a friend of mine: “Once you have something else to live for, you become a weaker competitor.” I don’t know exactly where this quote came from, but I was intrigued as soon as I heard it. We started to chat about this concept and how it applies to the eventing world. I am more or less on the fence about this statement because I can see two sides to this theory: 1) Once you have something else to live for, you become a weaker competitor, and 2) Once you have something else to live for, you become a stronger competitor. Which is it?
When I originally heard this quote, I immediately thought that once you have a family, kids, best friends and family members counting on and relying on you, that you would automatically become a weaker competitor because you have so much at risk. As this idea marinated in my mind, I thought perhaps the opposite of this statement could also hold some validity. Perhaps what drives us and what makes us better competitors are those other things we are living for. So which is it? Are we stronger or weaker competitors when we have something besides our horse to live for?
I used to have posters hanging above my bed as a young girl of Anky Van Grunsven, David O’Connor and other big-name riders. I would fall asleep at night dreaming of jumping and galloping; oh wait, I still do! The point is all I ever wanted was to become a Karen O’Connor or a Phillip Dutton. I had no other dreams and no other ambitions. All I wanted to do was become a four-star event rider. Nobody was going to change my mind and nobody was allowed to tell me I could not succeed.
Fast forward through college, jobs and relationships, and all of a sudden I am about to turn 28, and I am starting to have those weird maternal thoughts. I never imagined myself to be tied down and have serious responsibilities other than barn chores and riding, but I do. I am at that point in my life where I would like to settle down, get married and have a family.
Some of my friends might start laughing as they read this because this concept is a fairly recent development. Life is short and we all know that the option to have children is not always available. So here I am. I don’t want to give up on my riding and my horses (and I never will), but I want those other things in life. I want to look into a glass ball and see how my two worlds could coexist.
So here’s a dilemma: How do we compete, ride full-time, start a family and not begin to worry about the repercussions of this sport? Obviously event riders are more at risk than someone playing the clarinet in an orchestra. We all know that this sport can be very dangerous. Obviously, I also am aware that you could walk across the street and die. You could be in a plane crash, or you could slip and fall on ice in the winter and break your neck.
I am aware of all this. However, eventing is dangerous, and there is more risk involved at any level. So how do we compete willingly while knowing we could fall off, break bones or even die when we have others that need us? I suppose this question might hit home for all those event riders who are still competing and are parents.
If you are a parent of three and you are about to gallop out of the start box, do you have vivid thoughts of your children, husband, wife or parents in your mind? Or, do you gallop out of the box without one single worry or hesitation? I have no idea, because I am not a parent. However, I do have a very loving family who I am desperately close with, and I have a boyfriend and good friends. So, again I ask this question: Once you have something else to live for, do you become a weaker OR stronger competitor?