No matter your discipline or breed of choice, there are several factors to show season that all equestrians have in common. Lindsay Shearman of Knollwood Farm explains.
As we all ramp up our preparation for the 2017 season, all equestrians have some things in common. We are going to work hard, think hard, sacrifice and have ups and downs, but it will be worth it in the end. It seems that, without a doubt, this struggle crosses all equestrian borders of division or breed to give everyone who loves and competes with horses a truly “equestrian” experience.
This past year, a saddle seat farm in Hartland, WI called Knollwood Farm, Ltd, documented the journey of one of their junior exhibitor riders to the very top of her riding capabilities.
So much like all equestrians, Frannie Gefke’s very successful show season experience ticked all six of the following boxes.
1. It hurts your body
When you want to be on the top of your game, you have to be fit and in riding shape. This becomes an even more infuriating topic when you’re talking to a non-equestrian who says “how is riding even a sport when all you do is sit on the horse?” It can be hard to let the ignorance of that statement slide when every fiber of your being is working super hard to hold you upright after your last lunge lesson, but the reality is, we all know it’s a sport and we all know working on your muscular endurance is a part of killing it when you compete.
2. It hurts your brain
Let’s face it, some classes ask a lot of you. When your pattern is released at the show office and you see how many pivots/turns/lead changes/etc there are in it, sometimes it feels like your brain is going to explode. As we’ve all seen before on the internet, keep calm and ride on. Even though your brain may be feeling a bit crunched under the pressure of remembering your line work or even your back number, it’s all a part of equestrianism. Who needs Sudoku!?
3. It hurts your social life
We’ve all hit that point in our riding careers where we are firing at all cylinders in terms of improving yourself and your horse to prepare for competition. This leaves little time or energy for socializing. Sometimes the worst happens (unless you’re like me and only have horses for friends…) and your friends stop inviting you to things during the summer season all together because they just know you will say “no.” This is one of the other reasons the equestrian community is so supportive of one another and such a great outlet for forming lasting friendships: because equestrians get why you say “no” to heading out when you only have two months to prepare for the finals!
4. It hurts your wallet
Lesson after lesson after lesson doesn’t come cheap — especially if you and your equine partner are working with a professional. Neither does making sure all your equipment is up to snuff and that your equine partner has all the nutritional and veterinary care they need before the start of a season. Equestrianism is not a cheap sport. It just isn’t. Whether you are able to DIY a lot of the stuff to save money, or work off your barn bills by doing some of my favorite tasks (bedding stalls, putting up hay, etc), getting you and your equine pal ready for competition is never an easy or cheap task. You either pay in dollars, or time, both of which are perfectly acceptable forms of currency!
5. It can hurt your heart at times
Nothing quite prepares you for the pangs of disappointment when you’ve been working your butt off all season to totally choke when your big moment arrives. Or to work your butt off and not receive the level of recognition you were hoping for. The reality is, that part is a bit out of our control. All we can do to fight off the heartache is work our hardest, physically and mentally, make the necessary sacrifices, social or financial, to be happy with the progress we have made to reach this point. Be proud of the journey you and your equine partner are on, not just what the clock or the ribbon says.
6. It is so worth it
Just like Frannie said, “there is a moment” and we have all felt it, where you just mesh with your horse. It’s like you’re reading each other’s minds. You finally understand why your equine partner bucks every time they hear a dog bark in the arena and your horse finally understands why you don’t appreciate all the bucking. It may only be five steps, it may be five minutes, but all the sacrifices, all the soreness, exhaustion, mental and emotional strife, the empty wallet, it all comes down to that moment where you and your horse are in stride together, working together, doing exactly what you’ve been hoping to achieve your entire career and suddenly, every sad moment, every disappointment, every time you found yourself in the dirt, it’s all worth it.
Have you experienced those five steps? Tell us about it in the comments down below!
Lindsay Shearman owns The Jodphurs Company and works on the Good Hands Finals committee, one of the most prestigious classes in the saddle seat discipline. She is also an assistant trainer at Knollwood Farm, a saddle seat facility in Hartland, Wisconsin.