Experience is the thing you get thirty seconds after you needed it. In order to get experience, you have to have experiences. We learn best from our mistakes. There are so many clever, witty and true quips about living life, about the process of going from here to There, wherever that is.
But there is no witticism that alleviates the frustration of having to watch kids go through it.
We've all been there—the bad show; the horse who Just Does Not Want To Play Today; the monsoon rains; the judge that, inexplicably, sees your ride as 10 percent worse from his view than the other judge does from hers. And they make us into the riders that we are, particularly for those of us that do this for a living. We learn grit. We learn to not take it all so personally, to press on, rise above, cope. We learned it by going through it.
But I often think about this cute boy in my college economics class, from whom I attempted to learn to play the guitar. The problem was not his teaching; it was that I didn't really want to learn to play the guitar, I wanted to know to play the guitar, like those people who wake up from a coma speaking another language. The learning process is tedious, exhausting and fraught with mayhem.
My three students on their four horses rode their hearts out at Gladstone. Some were conservative in their tests; others tried too hard. Some were starstruck into submission, not riding as hard as they normally do; still others had their hair on fire a bit too much. In the end, not one had the rides that they either wanted, or were capable of. And there was just nothing to do but watch it happen.
They will rise from this, because this is not, actually, the end of the world. They are all young for their divisions, on horses with whom they have a long future, except for maybe Kristin and Billy only due to Billy's age, but I'm 100% confident that something will happen for Kristin to help her find a horse for the Junior division next year—she's too good and too smart to go unnoticed, and has a lot of fans in her club.
And we all must learn that life is not fair, and this weekend was one step for all of them down that path. But ugh, I can see why parenting is not in my future. It's one thing to go through it oneself, but a whole 'nother thing to watch a child, someone you love, experience the same.
This is not to say it was a wash entirely. Kristin and Billy were ninth in a very, very competitive Juniors division. Ironically enough the division is so competitive in our Region 1 that she'll just miss making the NAJYRC team—on a 67 percent average—and so will, instead, redirect her efforts towards getting her Silver Medal. (Let us pause for a moment to remember that she is not yet 14.)
I was so proud of the way all three of them handled disaster, but none so much as I was proud of Abby, who came with no family to support her, and could not have been a more gracious and better cheerleader for the little girls.
Ella, who participated in the bamboozlement for spooking at the ring (this from an incredibly non-spooky horse) constantly throughout her and Michael's Grand Prix Special, normally by far her best test, rallied to show that, even as her fitness grows, she could play with the Big Kids for three long, grueling days of competition. That mare will be such a tremendous animal in the future.
And through it all, watching some riding in the warm-up from youth and senior competitors alike that did not always leave such a nice taste in the mouth, I watched my three wonderful young women and my excellent coach ride like royalty—quiet sitting, soft hands, lovely connections; my girls sat the trot beautifully and with strong cores, something that was far from the norm throughout those divisions.
It may not have been their week, but they all earned blue ribbons, in my book, for the things that really matter. They'll all have more chances at the Championships, but they're well on their way to winning in Life.