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Trying to work out if I really want to compete

13 replies

Dressageandonionstuffing · 21/11/2023 12:47

Regular MNetter and named changed

This is a bit long but really appreciate any advice or perspectives from people in a similar boat/who are competing in any sport as a working parent and understand.

I am incredibly lucky to be in possession of a really smart dressage horse and my own full size arena at home. I’ve sunk my life savings and more into my dream yard, it’s what I’ve wished for as long as I can remember and I’m grateful and proud of what I have.

Thing I’m struggling with at the moment is if I really want to compete seriously or not. I have 2 small DC and a big, full-on job which involves international travel. Which I need to keep working hard at to afford said horse & his friends 😊. DH also has a very full on job and 99% of the time we are just about not drowning. I feel overwhelmed and stressed quite a lot of the time. When I’m not riding 😁.

I’ve been back competing affiliated dressage for a little while after DC2 and reflecting on my last outings, if I’m being completely honest with myself I enjoy our trips out to training clinics etc more.

I think it’s because I’m time poor, I can’t practice and prepare for the test as much as is ideal, then I’m so focused on where I’m going I lose the quality and don’t ride as well. I get ok marks and usually a good placing, but I don’t often come out of the arena with that ‘on top of the world’ feeling of achievement I get from a really good training session where I feel like we have really mastered something or improved.

I’m doing a fairly high level so unaffiliated not really a regular option. Horse is experienced so doesn’t need the outings for his education. He loves a trip out too, anywhere and is impeccably behaved for his breeding. However, he is getting older and I don’t think I’ll be able to afford something of his calibre in the near future (especially with the current insane horse prices) and even if I did it would be a good while before I could compete at this level again. I also have this amazing horse and fantastic facilities- so it feels a bit of a waste to not compete for no good reason! And will I regret not doing it when I could, when suddenly it no longer becomes an option! Argh!

People are always asking me about next show, if I’m aiming for any championships etc etc, and I just feel a bit stressed at the idea rather than excited. I have actually qualified for a championship and am already worried about the pressure of getting ready for it, and how I’ll fit it in! But if I go more often, will I be more relaxed about it and start to enjoy it more and improve my performance? And build a positive cycle?

I had better stop there as this is so long - appreciated if you’ve made it this far and not fallen asleep!

OP posts:
twistyizzy · 21/11/2023 13:03

When I bought DHorse 8 years ago I was 37 my DD was 3 and I felt it was my "last shot" at seriously competing etc. I always knew I would keep him until the end of his life so paid £££ for him. Spent the first 3 years affiliating with BD and pouring money into training (Talland, Equipilates etc) to get as far as we could. At the peak I was having weekly lessons with a listed BD judge and micro analysing every score sheet to push for those tiny % improvements.
All of the above resulted in a crisis of confidence and one day I couldn't even get him to canter (we were doing tempis the week before). I then had 1 year when we didn't canter at all, I gave up lessons because what was the point if I could only walk and trot? All we did was hack. After 1 year I decided to try some showing (ex racer) and spent 18 months doing this (weirdly canter wasn't an issue).
Fast forwards to 2 years ago and with no lessons I decided to trip the whiteboards again, we won 😄.
He is turning 21 in January so we now just hack, show and do 1 schooling session per month with the odd local dressage comp.
I am so much happier.

Horses don't have any ambition in life to do anything other than be a horse and I know mine is much happier as a semi retired lawnmower than he ever was doing BD. Because I only ride a few times a month I can make sure that they are when I've got time and the rest I just enjoy being with him.

I will probably never be able to afford his calibre of horse again and we've got 100s of rosettes but for me it is the bond that's the most important thing. He only likes me seeing to him and we have a total understanding that he comes first and I am his lowly servant.

Take the pressure off and just enjoy your horse.

Dressageandonionstuffing · 21/11/2023 14:04

Thanks @twistyizzy - mine will stay with me for life also, he also does really love his job! He is on fire at the moment, which makes it even harder to not ‘make the most of it’. But as you say pretty sure he wouldn’t feel any great sense of loss if he didn’t go to a competition again 🤷‍♀️

OP posts:
maxelly · 21/11/2023 14:14

I feel a bit of a fraud coming on here as between lack of time and lack of horsepower I haven't achieved any great competitive success since my teens but TLDR no-one needs to compete, it doesn't matter what people think of you or whether you are 'wasting' potential of yourself or your horse, so long as you are enjoying yourself then that is the important thing.

That being said, I do find for myself that much as I don't massively 'enjoy' competitions or find them thrilling or satisfying in themselves - I tend towards more feel frustrated with myself for not riding as well as I do at home and/or irritated about not getting the score/result I wanted (slightly sore loser here although I've mellowed with age a bit!) - I do sometimes need that bit of external pressure or validation in order to find motivation to keep going and improving particularly through the winter when it's all a bit of a slog, so while I certainly wouldn't class myself as a proper competitive rider anymore I wouldn't want to completely give it up either. I don't find these days it has to be very often or at a very high level (I certainly don't have the energy /dedication to qualify for championships or anything any more) but putting a little bit of pressure on myself by knowing I have a show date booked or getting some unbiased feedback from someone other than my instructor sometimes is the difference between really productive, motivated training or schooling sessions or mooching around a bit aimlessly or even finding excuses to not ride at all which ultimately I know would make me feel disappointed in myself. I find 3 or 4 shows a year ample for me these days, I'd rather spend the money on clinics and/or boxing out to really nice hacking than be out competing every weekend, and my horse is getting on a bit too so he probably appreciates the slightly slower pace. Could you maybe take the pressure off yourself a bit over winter, you could give your horse a few weeks off while the weather's still good enough for regular turnout then come back with a plan to be really selective about your training goals and objectives then fit any competing around that rather than competing being the aim in itself? You could perhaps look into doing dressage anywhere or one of the other online ones as well (I think they go up to advanced) as that saves a lot of the hassle of going out?

Trickedbyadoughnut · 21/11/2023 14:22

If you are both enjoying yourselves at training, that is enough. More than enough.

The horse world is full of people who think others should be doing X, Y and Z ... The more you can tune out, the happier you'll be.

CountryCob · 21/11/2023 17:33

Hello I am in a slightly similar situation. DH has big job and I am part time but in a job that can be full on and carries signifiant responsibility and occassional travel which has been international. We have our own yard bought at great expense but no arena - we would not get planning - including a young horse and my primary school child's pony club pony. My horse is talented and was largely started by me and professionally schooled into an established all rounder pre kids. Following that stage we did compete and we had a lot more talent shown which wasn't fully explored as I didn't think I would keep up with it as my child was very young. Since then I have competed a little but go more to clinics and camps. I find I get more pleasure and riding time that way. We are also renovating a house which is a very full on building site. I find running the yard, minding the horses, my daughter at pony club - 2 camps this year! and a 3 year old horse getting started and going to a couple of shows this year plenty. My horse and I have been to a couple of clinics, we have great hacking and I hack as much as I can which isn't massively regular but happens. My quite fancy horse leads the yard herd and nannys the pony and youngster on rides! I think whilst my schooling is a little rusty at times we ride better than ever in terms of balance and bond and I always consider my riding position. When my child was a baby I tried to compare myself with riders with more family childcare and horse help and no separate work. I felt a massive failure and almost gave my wonderful horse up. Someone told me he was a competiton horse and I should swap him. I love him far too much and like hacking a well mannered safe horse I have known for years in lovely tack, even if that is all I do. Hoping to have more time next year but other than a show/ comp or 2/3 in pleasant easier weather, at a max a very low key ODE I will have lessons or go to clinics and camps. Long hacks and maybe a pub ride. If that is all I did that would be fine. Where I live there are lots of facilities and professional riders. When I tried to keep competing I made myself miserable and struggled. My horse is happy I think, they aren't wasted that way. Competing isn't everything. I have friends with one pre educated horse on livery and they do loads and think its the pinacle of horsemanship and are dismissive of not competing but I think they are wrong. One once told me it wouldn't matter if mine was lame as not going anywhere. I have 3 sound educated horses all from younstock - to me running a yard alone with everything that throws up such as teaching a yearling to pick up their back feet is much more tricky than jumping an established horse but I just smile it off now. Follow your heart. You can always have a break and come back to it.

Dressageandonionstuffing · 21/11/2023 20:20

@CountryCob thanks for the thoughtful reply- I can identify with much of this!

I feel like the ‘occasional’ competing is part of the problem. Because I’m not all-in, I’m not improving my test riding and way of going under pressure, accuracy etc and therefore don’t feel like I’m making big strides. And that probably contributes to why I don’t find it massively satisfying or enjoyable at the moment.

OP posts:
EverestMilton · 22/11/2023 09:06

Thing is, this riding lark. It's supposed to be fun.....You sound like an amazingly high achiever but it also sounds exhausting. I expect you always do well at whatever you do, which is why the dressage competitions niggle you at the moment. This is probably despite the fact you are probably riding at a higher level than 98% of riders?? You have a lovely yard and a beautiful horse. Why not just live in the moment for a bit and enjoy that?
I have full time professional job, so does DH. DC has a pony and I have my cob. Mine are fat, hairy and low on talent and I'm still knackered.
I think if you like the clinics and training sessions go and focus on those for the winter. Maybe specifically test riding type clinics would be helpful? No doubt you will improve from the coaching in this time so it won't be 'wasted'. Take the pressure off and see if you feel about competing again in the Spring.

FiveGoldDoughnutRings · 24/11/2023 16:11

I know this isn’t your question but do you have a pony for your dc? I got lots of enjoyment out of teaching mine to ride and going to all the pony club events. You haven’t lived till you’ve stayed up late at camp drinking with the other parents.

twistyizzy · 24/11/2023 17:13

@FiveGoldDoughnutRings agreed! I think my friend and I enjoyed 3 days at PC Champs more than our DDs did 🤣 They should definitely do a Champs hoodies for all the PC mums!

CountryCob · 24/11/2023 18:28

@twistyizzy we bloody deserve one. All those lead reign clear rounds and desperately seeking a suitable pony and packed lunches

twistyizzy · 25/11/2023 09:32

@CountryCob oh god yeh the lead reim clear rounds 🥵. My friend is just experiencing the hell of these now, I'm afraid I just watch and laugh as she crawls to the final jump on her knees, red as a tomato and having a coronary!

FiveGoldDoughnutRings · 25/11/2023 12:37

Yes at that stage you get the blame when they don’t win the jump off. Then someone pulls out an athletic older sibling and no one else stands a chance.

RiderGirl · 25/11/2023 17:15

I've ridden all my life and I think I've completed about twice. I've got my very own little yard and land and a great little mare who I was told reliably a few years ago would make a cracking little eventer, which I care not a jot about!

Years ago I was on a big livery yard and I did used to take part in lessons and clinics which I enjoyed, I suspect if I was still in that environment I'd still do it and may have taken up show jumping. As it is I'm happy exploring the world on my little buddy, she doesn't care that this is all she does, in fact she loves it!

What I'm trying to say is that there's a lot of pleasure to be had from horse ownership that doesn't involve putting added pressure on yourself by forcing yourself to compete when you're already stressed. Take your foot off the pedal, you can always come back to it later.

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