PDA

View Full Version : Retirement vs dropping down the levels



denny
Jan. 24, 2011, 08:37 AM
There`s much current discussion of various riders getting ready to retire from competition, and there are dozens of former riders who have "hung up their tack", as the saying goes.

Which leads to my question: Why quit altogether? Why not just acknowledge advancing age, lack of time, whatever, and just drop down to a new comfort zone?

I`m not suggesting there`s a right or wrong answer to this, just wondering what goes through the heads of those who make the quite different choices.

wsmoak
Jan. 24, 2011, 08:43 AM
Oh, darn, I thought this was going to be about the *horse*.

You see, I am the "good home" to which you sell your not-yet-ready-to-retire-but-needing-to-drop-down-the-levels event horse. ;)

For the rider... I can see the more competitive types as not wanting to drop back down to a level they've already "done". It would probably be boring to them, unless there was a reason such as bringing young horse along. Pure speculation though!

Ms.BarnBrat
Jan. 24, 2011, 08:47 AM
I have wondered the same thing when I hear of someone whom, as far as I am knowlegable o,f is perfectly healthy, retiring from competing or riding all together.

Health issue, no qualms, do what you need to, to stay healthy. When I asked a local rider why she was retiring and not just going down to Training level or even Prelim the response I got was "That would be like telling a NASCAR driver to go race Go-Karts instead".

Everyone does this for their own reasons, if that reason is the challenge or the thrill, maybe they don't get their fix from the lower levels anymore. Sad, not my personal convictions, but true. At least it gives room for newbies to move up and potentially be more competative :)

Ajierene
Jan. 24, 2011, 08:52 AM
I do think a lot of it is an ego/competition thing. They have already done Olympics/Rolex/WEG/whatever, so dropping down to *only* doing two stars or three stars would be more like giving up than 'officially' retiring.

mugsgame
Jan. 24, 2011, 09:23 AM
I guess if you have been there and got the t.shirt then you do not feel the need to carry on and its nice to get your life back! Plus in horses there are lots of alternatives like training which will keep you just as satisfied but without all the commitment and dedication that competing needs.
I do not think there is a happy half way house if you are a pro you either do it properly or not at all.

retreadeventer
Jan. 24, 2011, 09:53 AM
Well...Denny,
without getting into what I've done or what level I have actually ridden to, one of the reasons might have to do with that type A personality that all of us eventers seem to be subject to.
I could drop down to novice and go around and be safe and be "eventing". Not that novice is bad or anything.
But it would not be challenging, it would not be fun, not as much fun as the really difficult challenges brought by more complex dressage tests and jumping courses.
Once you get "there", there is not as much connection with your horse over less challenging courses. One could go with green horses and enjoy the learning process, but you miss that longtime connection with your made horses, I guess.

NeverTime
Jan. 24, 2011, 10:01 AM
I do think a lot of it is an ego/competition thing. They have already done Olympics/Rolex/WEG/whatever, so dropping down to *only* doing two stars or three stars would be more like giving up than 'officially' retiring.

That seems a little harsh. Very few top riders only compete at advanced. Along with their top horses, they are going training, preliminary, CCI*, whatever with a bunch of other horses -- usually logging more rides at the lower level than the upper. Jumping the same training level course 20 times a year gets old after a while.
Plus, when riding is your job, the shine wears off a bit, no? Frankly, I think that's pretty understandable and has nothing to do with ego.
That Denny's made a conscious choice to step down the levels, buy some really nice Cadilliacs of horses to enjoy those levels with -- I think that's probably a more unusual choice and really speaks to who much he truly enjoys riding.

mkevent
Jan. 24, 2011, 10:39 AM
I turned 50 this year. My highest level I've ever competed is Prelim. I can feel that my reflexes aren't as fast. I still plan on doing Prelim but I do think that the number of years I'll be doing it will be limited. I want to stay safe and be able to give my horse the best ride that I possibly can. If I can no longer ride at my previous abilities, I see nothing wrong with dropping down a level.

Maybe my outlook would be different if I were a pro. I do know of one pro who is now bringing along really nice babies up the levels and selling them once they've found their niche. I think it's great to have skilled riders and horseman be the ones bringing the talented horses along. She can probably fit in more babies to ride and compete at the lower to mid levels than campaigning an upper level horse. I see this as benefitting more potential horses and riders-not everyone can or wants to train talented prospects. These horses are in demand in multiple disciplines.

purplnurpl
Jan. 24, 2011, 10:51 AM
I can understand that for some advanced riders it's either all or nothing.

I was a competitive swimmer for 10+ years and now even though I am retired I really lack the ability to just *enjoy* going for a swim.

furthermore- I think there is a breaking point. To be an UL rider is to eat, breathe, bathe in eventing for years and years. I think the break is well needed/deserved and often the riders go on to other equestrian activities.

e.g.
Micheal Matz
I hear WFP is wanting some racehorses as well.

Denny, you tell us. : )

I played around. Almost had some short success at Prelim, which is not really UL though close, but I have found that the dedication and money out exceed my resources.
Now I enjoy bringing up young horses and playing other games.
I almost went hunter this year but that lifestyle landed me in a cardboard box instead of a house. ; )
This year and next I will have an AQHA to compete in all-around. I'm SOOOO excited.

eponacowgirl
Jan. 24, 2011, 10:55 AM
There is a local rider here, too, who had some success and is now enjoying breeding and bringing lovely young horses up the levels for others to enjoy. I believe she sent a prelim horse to another pro to take intermediate recently, as she knows her enjoyment is in "making" a youngster, as opposed to bringing them to the top.

bornfreenowexpensive
Jan. 24, 2011, 10:58 AM
Well...I know one person..successful international level. They didn't quit horses entirely but don't event....hell I can't even get them to go watch an event with me very often. They just don't care as much about going Training level (and especially watching training level ;)) as they did going Advanced. They switched to UL dressage...then reining and working cow horses...now they are doing herding dogs!

Still very competitive in everything they do but enjoy doing something different. Sort of like "I climbed that mountain and now want to climb a different one."

I think for each person....what they do will vary greatly. Some will quit eventing...others will be involved somehow with the sport until their final days.

rideonbestrong
Jan. 24, 2011, 12:11 PM
Retire? Don't know the word. I've evented more than 25 years on horses I trained and bought when ages 6 mo-3 years. I evented up to I level and had good luck/success.

In recent years, I've faced illness that forced me out of the saddle and still does. Nevertheless, I plan to continue to event at the lower levels and have even qualified for championships. It's a passion that keeps me going.

FlightCheck
Jan. 24, 2011, 12:28 PM
I have often wondered about this, when seeing someone who has won/competed at X level totally leaving the horses behind.

For me, it starts with the horse. When I can no longer ride or own my own personal horse, I can see myself owning for others, enjoying just feeding them carrots, or grooming someone else's horse just to be around them.

But for some, perhaps there isn't that feeling without a competition to prepare for or compete in.

LisaB
Jan. 24, 2011, 12:43 PM
I thought many of them 'retired from international competitions'. Not eventing all together.

RAyers
Jan. 24, 2011, 01:01 PM
Interesting question. I have several friends who either were at the top of international competition or still are. Some have moved on to a different discipline. Others have given up riding to focus on teaching, training, selling etc. and still others refuse to admit they are "old" and still going at it hard.

I think a similar question is:

Do you cut down your heroine use and move to more benign drugs or quit cold turkey?

I am at a point where I can see the end better than I can see the beginning. It is hard to imagine how I intend to end my horse career. Should I focus on youngsters and move them up to a point where another can take them the rest of the way? Should I start teaching? Should I change disciplines? How does one go into the great good night? I know it would be easier to simple quit and walk away because there will always be that yearning, that call or desire to be out there on the edge.

I would have been a shitty mountain climber. I always have looked at reaching the peak and never about how to come back down. Blame it on my dad who really was a mountain climber and taught me to climb. We never reviewed the repelling down. ;)

Reed

JWB
Jan. 24, 2011, 01:05 PM
Pure speculation - maybe they'd like to spend their weekends watching football, drinking beer, and being with their families. Whether you're riding at novice or advanced, you're still going to be logging a lot of hours away from the family.

My father in law was a race car driver for many years. The eventual decision to retire was based on the strain of being on the road every weekend racing more than with being uncomfortable with the act of driving in a race. After retirement, he never drove in another race... He enjoyed watching, teaching driving, tinkering with cars, and "talking shop" but he never felt the need to go on the road and race at any level. He didn't have anything to prove and there were enough car-related activities for him to dabble in that still let him be home with his family on the weekends.

JFS
Jan. 24, 2011, 01:36 PM
When I sold my last Prelim horse I pretty much decided that I didn't need to event at that level anymore. With two kids competing, organizing recognized & schooling events and clinics, work and all that good stuff. Anyway time and money and the current horse was a bit of an issue and it turned out that I didn't compete @ all in 2009.

I managed to get to 2 recognized events, a schooling event & a CT at the Novice level and rode in the clinics that I organized with Lucinda and Eric Dierks. It's still fun and I like to go out there as a check to make sure that the training is on track; not to mention I need something to keep me motivated @ times.

BTW, we were on top in 3 of the 4 competitions. Icing on the cake ;) Would have been second at the other one but my first event back in over a year going xc without a watch, I was a tad slow ;)

But I have to say, I do worry more about getting hurt these days so I have to make sure that my homework includes a fitness program. And there are some horses that I just don't have to ride anymore; I let my kids ride the tough ones.

Jackie

denny
Jan. 24, 2011, 01:39 PM
As I said, this isn`t a right or wrong choice. It`s totally up to each individual.
What interests me, more from a psychological/conceptual angle, is what drives someone to either keep on keeping on, or to quit.

My own choice hasn`t really been a conscious choice. I started competing in 1954, and have been doing it every year since, 58 seasons this year, and I still get the same kick at about to be 70 as I did at 12.

Can`t imagine not, but it`s totally dependent upon health, which is partly luck.

But I can see some getting sick of it, it`s a lot of pressure.

SevenDogs
Jan. 24, 2011, 01:57 PM
When I see someone that has successfully ridden at the highest levels, continue to compete (moving down as needed) I think, "THERE is someone that loves the sport!".

.... Not just the success it can bring or the accolades, but someone that loves every single part of the sport and just wants to continue to ride. :)

Big Spender
Jan. 24, 2011, 02:09 PM
Denny, I hate to say my decision to stop eventing was sadly made for me. I had started eventing my mare as a 4 year old and she ran successfully for years at Preliminary and Intermediate, including the traditional 3-days at Bromont, Radnor, Ledyard and Essex. I decided at 19 years old that if I didn't breed her now, I may not get a chance. I bred her to your stallion, Deputed Testamony. She had a beautiful filly that I named Mirror Image, because it was a "mini-me" of my mare. I had high hopes for her to fill her mother's huge shoes!

Within 48 hours of birth, they were both at Tufts. 17 days to be exact. The filly had bacterial septicemia in 4 joints. Long story, short, she did survive, but her long term riding prognosis was grim. She was a tough girl, like her mother, and not only was she sound, but we did some schooling shows, had some jumping lessons and decided that she could easily run through Training Level. I gave her extra time to grow up before I broke her. During that time, I did bring the mare back out to run a few Training level combined tests, just to prove that we still "had it", but decided it would not be fair to continue down that road. I think she would have had many more years of competition in her if I hadn't bred her, but she had done everything I had asked of her, and more, at just 15 hands, for 15 years!! Even though my expectations of the filly were to replace her mother, I was happy to get her out at any level, to prove the vets wrong! They wanted to euthenize her. :mad:

Sadly, just before her 6th birthday, she dropped dead in her stall. Everything stopped for me and I had no idea what I was going to do. I couldn't afford to buy a horse and really didn't want to look for one either. Maybe I would pull my mare out of "retirement"?

Before I knew it, someone had given me a 4 year old Hanoverian gelding. Unfortunately he hates to jump! I was grateful to have something to ride, so I decided to do what he enjoyed, dressage. I miss jumping and eventing, but it has been almost 12 years now since I ran my mare for the last time. My gelding, now 8, loves the white ring! We are showing successfully at 2nd level and hope to move up to 3rd this summer??

I often wonder what happened to a lot of the riders who were competing with me way back when. You don't really know if they are still riding, just in another discipline, or did they give it up all together? I love the competition spirit, so in one form or another, I will be out there, continuing my passion for riding!

As an addition....my mare is still fresh at 29 years old this year!

Carolyn

goodmorning
Jan. 24, 2011, 02:15 PM
Some people like to be pushed, and have different things that can motivate them. Some can find enjoyment in many things, others, not-so-much. I'm lucky in that I am a young adult, and my body hasn't given me a response of 'no' - yet. When it does, I can fully admit I am not sure how I will respond. I can see it being very frustrating to lack the physical ability that comes with age, and find myself needing a different outlet.

Skiing might be a good parallel. You start off on those nice-green bunny slopes & terrible J-bars -- and eventually can move to the double-black diamonds or heck, ski off a cliff if you want to ;) Some are perfectly fine cruising down the blue's for eternity, others hope to explore Tuckerman's Ravine. Once your body starts holding you back a bit - do you really want to go back to those bunny-slopes? Or, would you like to teach a ski team? Bring your own children from the bunny-slopes to the black-diamonds? Some might decide heck with the cold weather - I'm wintering in FL. Whatever works, and I don't think one decision makes a person more or less dedicated to the sport.

fanfayre
Jan. 24, 2011, 02:29 PM
I grew up with a girl [well, she's a woman now, but we were both kids at the time] (and Denny, she was a student of yours at one point) who made the Canadian 3-day team for Barcelona as the left-behind alternate.
About 10 years ago she made the decision to "quit" international levels to concentrate on raising her family and to develop younger horses. She's now preparing her new property to become the next "go-to" place for top-notch schooling and training. I think for her, the constant travelling became too much, and she's found another niche doing what she's REALLY good at. It's too bad I'm about 4000 miles away from her as I'd be her student in a heartbeat!

ThirdCharm
Jan. 24, 2011, 04:29 PM
I don't think I'll ever quit unless for health reasons. I can't imagine! I am having as much fun riding my 4 yo who has just schooled xc twice as I was with my hopeful UL horse cruising around Training last fall. Sometimes more! LOL. I love breeding and starting the youngsters, and though I have a pretty busy schedule planned for the next couple of years trying to get my mare as far as she can go, I definitely realize that that is a big time committment and I will probably be sick of it eventually.... but moving back down to the lower levels, maybe competing a few times a year after that? Definitely doable.

Jennifer

subk
Jan. 24, 2011, 05:46 PM
As I said, this isn`t a right or wrong choice. It`s totally up to each individual.
What interests me, more from a psychological/conceptual angle, is what drives someone to either keep on keeping on, or to quit.

My own choice hasn`t really been a conscious choice. I started competing in 1954, and have been doing it every year since, 58 seasons this year, and I still get the same kick at about to be 70 as I did at 12.
Denny as someone that has watch you compete for 30 years (but doesn't know you) it doesn't surprise me you would continue but not at the top levels. Because you breed, I've always thought you were more about "developing the horse" as opposed to "finding a horse to get you to the top levels." Not that there is anything wrong with either mindset. I also think that Bruce Davidson has a strong dose of that "development" mindset as well and he's another breeder.

Maybe it's the difference in being process oriented as opposed to results oriented.

Xctrygirl
Jan. 24, 2011, 05:56 PM
Ok I'm not shy... I'll say it....

Money and decline in our sport.


I am not as interested in spending $$$$$ of now my (not mom and dad's) hard earned cash to go earn nothing in return and risk being the next bold type name in the back of the Chronicle. Thanks no.

I enjoy riding, but I no longer feel the need to prove what skills (if we call them that) I have left in the competitive arena. So instead I go watch and am consistently horrified by what's passing for trainers and "competent" riding nowadays.

Now the folks here will say I should put up or shut up. So I choose to sit back, not event, not go watch as often and what do you know... I have a fantastic life where I sleep in on weekends have money in the bank, my fingernails are dirt free and the man of my dreams wandered in when I wasn't uber focused on my riding goals.

So essentially what I am saying is that stopping competing was the best thing that ever happened to my heart, health and bank account.

I'll still ride, and I may even hop into an unrecognized HT for fun one day. But my type A has backed off and I am enjoying a "real life."


~Emily

NRB
Jan. 24, 2011, 09:01 PM
Am about to quit eventing myself. I'm just a low level ammie, training was my highest achievement. And as an adult I only did un-rec starter ht's to boot. My horse injured himself a year and half ago, looked like he'd make it back during the rehab process then re-injured himself 5 months ago. So the opportunity presents itself to find another horse, and I'm looking to get into combined driving, it's the only way I'll get into the 10 minute box in competition. I've gatored and loved it. I think training level is totally doable without getting into a huge expense. My knees are getting worse (long story). So I'm seriously looking at getting a large pony and doing ridden dressage and CDE's. I could never, ever get out of horses completely. I have a young daughter, not in school yet, so I've got other demands on my time. It would be nice to have a quiet pony to play with and have more time with my family. I could learn a new sport, take lots of lessons and in a couple years compete in CDE's.

that would be plan A....

KateDB
Jan. 24, 2011, 10:41 PM
Perhaps it has much to do with what horses mean to the person.
Maybe to some of the ultra competitive, horses are a vehicle (and I don't mean that unkindly), to satisfy the need to compete and reach specifics goals....in which case, once that is realized, no need to continue?

Maybe others, it's all about the relationship they have with the horses and it doesn't really matter how the time is spent, but just that there is the time....

For me, I enjoy schooling, and competing to test my progress, BUT almost as much, I love the relationship I have with my horses while foxhunting. And, I find particularly fun doing both things with the same horses, and making them as multi-disciplined as feasible...like the old days!

IFG
Jan. 24, 2011, 10:57 PM
Perhaps it has much to do with what horses mean to the person.
Maybe to some of the ultra competitive, horses are a vehicle (and I don't mean that unkindly), to satisfy the need to compete and reach specifics goals....in which case, once that is realized, no need to continue?

Maybe others, it's all about the relationship they have with the horses and it doesn't really matter how the time is spent, but just that there is the time....

For me, I enjoy schooling, and competing to test my progress, BUT almost as much, I love the relationship I have with my horses while foxhunting. And, I find particularly fun doing both things with the same horses, and making them as multi-disciplined as feasible...like the old days!

KateDB, thanks for saying it much better than I could. My horse has gotten older, and my funds to compete are now going to my kids' college tuition, so we started fox hunting. Had loads of fun. He has been having some soundness issues for the last couple of months, so we'll see what happens, but I will find something fun to do with him if he is up for it, or with a young horse once tuition is paid for.

LookmaNohands
Jan. 25, 2011, 09:32 AM
Denny,
I think it is an individual thing. I tend to go where my horses lead me. Went to advanced with one. Others not so much--enjoyed a bit of hunting with the one with limited scope, bridleless jumping with the retired advanced horse, now liberty work with another, rescuing TBs. Heck etc. I did my first beginner novice last fall with a greenie. Hope to move up to novice in a few weeks. Still taking lessons here and there, looking for clinics to go to, just got one of Wofford's DVDs. Even contemplating visiting you with the youngster. I am still like a sponge wanting to soak up knowledge

It takes sooo very much to get a horse to the upper levels and keep it there. Doesn't look as attractive as it once did.

frugalannie
Jan. 25, 2011, 01:46 PM
This is written from the perspective of someone who was aiming at Int. until my horse-of-a-lifetime passed untimely...

How does one make the decision? It is either forced upon you by circumstances, or you spend some quality time with yourself and figure out why you are in the sport.

If it's because you like to compete, you have the beginning of the answer.

If it's to fulfill yourself by achieving a certain goal, you have another answer.

If it's because any aspect of the sport (training a horse, riding at any level, teaching, learning) if what brings you bliss, you have your answer.

For me, giving up the "gotta go higher and faster" was a matter of maturing enough to understand what I really love about what we do, and then trimming all of the excess away. I admit it took me several years to really figure it out.

Also many glasses of wine.;)

Christa P
Jan. 25, 2011, 02:01 PM
I am wondering if it might have to do with the type of horse available to the rider. When a person gets used to riding very athletic horses moving down to less gifted horses might not be as much fun.

If the riders were relying on sponsers for access to the nice horses, they will probably not have access to that quality if they are no longer interested in the top levels. Others, such as Denny, that breed thier own or can find horses they like for an affordable price might still enjoy the competition since the horse will still be athletic and fun to ride even if they are competing at a lower level.


Christa

Dawnd
Jan. 25, 2011, 02:19 PM
I think that it is like the old warrior - sitting around the campfire telling stories that instill the desire in others to go into battle.

Some are destined to die in the saddle (metaphorically) and these folks choose to put on their war bonnets and keep going out there regardless of the outcome. Others slowly decide to stop going when their hearts are no longer in it.

My guess is that those who stop completely where not in it for the joy of battle but for the end results.

netg
Jan. 25, 2011, 02:29 PM
I can pretty easily see it happening. Going by frugalannie's point, it really depends what's in it for you.

I stopped riding for years after college because I couldn't afford to own a horse. Taking lessons and not getting to really build a relationship and develop some connection with one horse on a daily basis was painful for me, and it was easier to step away than put myself through that. Once I paid off my (Dartmouth!) loans, I could afford a horse again, so got back into riding.

I can see if competing and being the best in the world is what lights someone's fire, they might not be able to step back and enjoy lower levels again. I think it's great for those who can, and wish even the best in the world saw it as relationship building, doing the best they're able, rather than competing at the hardest levels, but I don't think that's truly how it is.

I can also see just plain exhaustion, feeling as if you have accomplished all you "need" to, and wanting to make a change and go for other goals.

deltawave
Jan. 25, 2011, 04:41 PM
I don't know a whole legion of ULRs, but the ones I do know who are older (say, 45-plus) still compete at the lower levels, but the impression I get is that it is no longer their single-minded focus. They have other interests, other obligations, other facets of their lives that require their time.

Kind of like most of the rest of us. :)

snoopy
Jan. 25, 2011, 04:49 PM
I grew up with a girl [well, she's a woman now, but we were both kids at the time] (and Denny, she was a student of yours at one point) who made the Canadian 3-day team for Barcelona as the left-behind alternate.
About 10 years ago she made the decision to "quit" international levels to concentrate on raising her family and to develop younger horses. She's now preparing her new property to become the next "go-to" place for top-notch schooling and training. I think for her, the constant travelling became too much, and she's found another niche doing what she's REALLY good at. It's too bad I'm about 4000 miles away from her as I'd be her student in a heartbeat!



I think Paige will be able to give much more to the sport in this way.

4Martini
Jan. 25, 2011, 06:20 PM
I used to kayak a lot. I paddled a lot of class 5 (considered the hardest stuff.) It was my life for a number of years. I traveled the world to find cool rivers to paddle. I paddled every night when the water was running. I have made amazing friends and memories and even met my husband paddling.

Then some bad stuff happened. I was on a trip where I rescued a guy who would have drowned if I had not got a rope to him with 1 chance. In my mind I knew if I had 3 tries I could not have made that throw 3 times and I couldn't live with myself if I didn't. One of my best friends drowned in a separate incident.

I couldn't enjoy it any more. I said I would just back off. But it wasn't the same. There wasn't the same teamwork and connection with the other paddlers. There wasn't the same strategy involved. It just wasn't fun at all (ignoring the occasional panic attacks that came from no where.) I rarely ever get in a boat anymore. Occasionally if we're on vacation somewhere cool and there's a river I've never paddled I'll hop on. But, for me it will never be the same. I am so thankful for the time I had enjoying the sport and the amazing people I met, but for me it was time to move on.

I know that's not riding, but I would guess it is the same for some people. There is a point where you have to be 100% present and it is an amazing feeling. You cannot let your mind drift it's just not an option. There's just no way to compare doing it at a lower level since it's just not the same thing. I hope someday I will experience something else that captivates me like kayaking did.

NRB
Jan. 25, 2011, 09:04 PM
I used to kayak a lot.

4Martini I used to guide on the New and Gauley rivers. Once I quit guiding and paddling myself I haven't been able to go on a commercial trip, to pay someone else to take me down the river. lol. Not quite the same, but....

fanfayre
Jan. 25, 2011, 10:00 PM
I think Paige will be able to give much more to the sport in this way.

Snoopy, I didn't want to name-drop and sound like the wanna-be I am ;)
But I totally agree with you.