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March 12, 2014

The Good Kind of Lucky

"Lately it seems that the tides have changed and cross-country is where my weekends have been unraveling. Call me spoiled, but this is honestly something new for Wort and me," Groesbeck said of her Red Hills CIC*** experience. Photo by Kat Netzler

Wort and I had the pleasure of attending Red Hills for the first time this past weekend for the CIC***.

Let me start off by saying that the Red Hills International Horse Trials is a phenomenal event. I give a huge round of applause to the organizers, officials and volunteers who make this event what it is.

Miserable weather threatened to steal the show at first; it was bad enough on Thursday that it became SOP to park the trucks and trailers with the assistance of large tractors, which seemed to be the only vehicles capable of negotiating the copious amounts of mud around the barns.

But despite all the muck, the event ran smoothly and safely. The courses were tough enough to challenge the horses and riders, but not so tough as to present any safety concerns; it made for a dramatic and exciting event that truly tested pairs in all three phases.

Speaking of "all three phases," I feel a bit pathetic lately that in one phase or another I seem to let a great weekend slip through my fingers. After a fairly good dressage test and an exciting double-clear show jumping round at Red Hills, I was in fourth place going into cross-country, only to let a judgment error and a resulting 20 penalties knock us out of the running. 

Historically I have gotten the jitters in show jumping; one rail too many when I have been in the pressure seat has dropped me down the leader board a time or two. But lately it seems that the tides have changed, and cross-country is where my weekends have been unraveling. Call me spoiled, but this is honestly something new for Wort and me.

This is probably something no one is really supposed to say out loud, but I will admit that even when I was as nervous as a person can get before cross-country, I always was pretty confident that I would come home clean. I have been incredibly lucky in how smoothly my progress up the levels has gone with Wort. His record has been nearly flawless until now, and I guess I never TRULY appreciated how hard this sport is and how much work it takes to be good. It makes me wonder sometimes: Was I good enough to do well until this level, or was I getting lucky? Or maybe a little of both?

There are probably a few people who might read that and smile with a snicker of satisfaction. I know for a fact that there are some in my past who think I have gotten by on luck alone. That little nagging voice follows me wherever I go, "You're not good, you're lucky."

It's taken a few years, a few coaches and supporters who have inspired me to be more confident in myself to begin to learn how to quiet those voices and then turn them into motivation—to prove those voices wrong.

So really, I have those voices to thank—in part—for some of the success that I have enjoyed. And there are weekends like this past weekend at Red Hills: when I am so close, yet so far from making a big statement on the scoreboard. Those instances make me hungry for more success and motivate me to work so that I’m able to hang with the pros in the big leagues. 

No matter how much I learn, or how much better I get, I keep finding new mistakes to make and new lessons to learn (and yes, I am aware that it will be like that for the rest of my life!). Each time I go out, I strive to be better than the time before. I am learning to embrace the 20s, embrace the rails and see the flaws in my dressage as opportunities to get better, rather than viewing them all as signs of defeat.

Granted, it is difficult because I am an extremely competitive person. But eventing is not only a physically demanding sport but also a mentally demanding sport, and I think that I am now entering one of the most mentally demanding periods of my riding career. I have to dig deeper to produce results and overcome—or even prevent—the demons. 

But in the meantime, I try never to forget how the-good-kind-of-lucky I am. Winning or losing, I keep in mind how blessed I am to have an incredible horse and that I’m doing what I love every day of my life—with the opportunity to do it on so many more.

Katy Groesbeck has recently packed up her life on the West Coast for the chance to be a working student with Buck Davidson. Follow her adventures as a part of BDJ Equestrian and with her horse, Wort, as she shares the lessons she learns in 2014! Read her introductory blog, "Following The Yellow Brick Road To My Dreams."