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  1. #21
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    It is also intersting to note those "one horse wonders".

    These riders, for what ever reason, be that lack of horses, funding, sponsors, day jobs etc, spend that bit of extra time developing their horses to compete and win at the highest levels.

    The term "one horse wonder" does not do the effort any justice what so ever, as these riders have to put the work in. They compete and win, their horses tend to last longer.

    There in the perception (true or not) that in order to be successful and have a shot at team selection that riders must have a string of upper level horses

    Again there are those exceptions, but perhaps the desire to build huge strings of horses and equally big businesses has negative consequences. The term jack of all and master of none comes to mind. More demands and distractions equals less time to train.

    Every event should be a measure of what areas of training need attention, never the less one must be prepared to the highest degree BEFORE getting to these events and that takes time and training...and that becomes more and more difficult with other demands placed on the rider to fund their businessess and personal expenses.



  2. #22
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    I would agree that it's comparing apples to oranges. There was one thing that struck me. Apolo Ono said he tried to ask himself each day if he had done all he could to ensure he was the best he could be. That's hard to do.

    I've decided to take that to heart, but here's the thing; I want to apply it to my ENTIRE life. I am a teacher, so I need to apply it to that (as in, was I the best teacher I could be today?) as well as my personal life (was I the best fiance/sister/daughter/friend I could be today) and my athletic life (did I eat right/train enough/do things around the barn). I am not willing to compromise my relationship with my fiance, for example, so I have told him on Wednesdays and Fridays I will not go to the barn but will spend the evenings with him (though I sometimes go out before work depending on the horses' needs, etc. and of course that doesn't apply when the horses need special care for illness/injury).

    There's a huge financial issue here; many of these people have been training hard since childhood--and there's nothing wrong with that. However, their parents have financed their extreme dreams with coaching, equipment, etc--often even moving to be near the best coaches. That's MUCH harder to do in our sport for many parents. They are mostly professional athletes with nothing to do each day but train. Even our most heavily sponsored athletes generally have to work on the side (teaching, instructing, selling) rather than spend every waking hour on a horse or in the gym. It's not a dedication issue; it's a financial one. Most of our elite athletes do spend hours/day in the saddle, give up a great deal, and do the extra things like eating right and working out. Heck, many of our ammies do that. But we can't compare six hours in the gym to six hours at the barn; it's just different.

    We DO have those with that single-mindedness. It just manifests differently in the form of horsemanship, etc.

    What it comes down to is this: what sacrifices am I willing to make for my riding? I know the answers. As I said, I'm NOT willing to sacrifice my relationship. That's ultimately the biggest thing. I COULD go get a second job, spend every day at the barn, and never have time for myself or fiance. I could insist that we live in a tiny apt with roommates rather than our own home so I don't have to make mortgage payments and can instead take an extra lesson or buy a better horse. Those things are not fair to the fiance, and so I can't do them. It means I probably won't make any Olympic teams, but I'll have to live with that. It's the choice I made, and it's the choice made for me by my parents, who placed the premium on education over horses (I did practically no recognized HT growing up because the rule was that I couldn't miss school for horse things--and I never did). Incidentally, how often does that happen--parents say you aren't allowed to be that single-minded, thus ending someone's chances before they're out of the gate (not saying that's the case with me, but it is with some sports, such as gymnastics or figure skating). It's just another factor.

    Then there's the injury to horse factor. Last year I spent HOURS each day rehabbing the horse over the course of several months. I was at the barn twice daily at first, then daily. I was hand walking, bandaging, doing therapy with the horse, etc. I barely had time after that each day to ride, but I would try and catch ride what I could (I can't look a gift horse in the mouth, as it was kind of people to let me ride, but I can't say they were highly trained or even fit enough for 40 minutes mounts, and many were physically NQR), but ultimately my training was put on serious hold. All my finances were also depleted at this time (they still haven't recovered). It was a blow that many athletes in other sports don't understand. I can ride through my own pain well enough, but this is so different from what other sports can fathom. Just to add another factor that separates us from the other athletes (on the upside, I was personally fitter than ever from all the work I was doing for the horse and because workouts kept me sane).

    So I will ask myself each day if I've done the best I can to be the best I can. My initial goal is to answer yes 2 days/week. We'll see where that takes me. Oh, and I'll remember that Shani Davis is self-coached and take heart when I'm in my current position of not affording lessons because of tremendous vet bills and adversity.

    In short, it's not a lack of focus; it's a choice. It's not a lack of focus; it's a lack of money or family backing. It's not a lack of focus; it's a different game when an animal is involved. And for a select few, the pieces come together and we have our elite.

    Oh, and we don't have the same system that many of the other sports do because it's such a unique sport--we're the only ones with living equipment.



  3. #23
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    Denny, I've been able to get to know, a little, a few really great riders, and I wouldn't trade places with them for anything. I think they're right where they should be--I think they have incredible focus and drive, and genuine love for the sport--but they are working at it all the time, in a multitude of ways. Fitness and care of horse--yep. Fitness training (other than riding) for themselves--yep. Outside help for sj and dressage--yep. Oh, yeah, and making a living--never easy in this sport. They do it, and I admire them for it; I'm in awe of how hard they work every single day.

    But I've also met many riders in the younger generation who seem to think they don't have to work that hard. They work hard, yes, but not as hard as they think they do. They're waiting for the Fairy Horse Sponsor to show up and hand them a golden ticket--or at least, that's how some of them come across to me.

    When you look at the success of very young athletes such as Lindsey Vonn, Shaun White, and CJ Cerskli, you know it's not wholly a generational thing. I think somehow many of our younger riders are getting a skewed view of what it takes to be great in our sport. I'm not really familiar with Young Riders, but I've heard people say it takes a very nice horse more than a very nice rider. Is this part of the problem? Are we rewarding young kids who can buy fancy horses more than young kids who can ride well and make the most of their horses?



  4. #24
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    I don't know Denny...I think you are wrong on this one. I do know several people who are aiming for the teams and/or developing riders. They are working their butts off.....literally. Riding 8-12 horses a day (sometimes more) AND going to the gym, yoga, personal trainers AND dieting.... I have also known others in other sports on the road to high level and few who went to the Olympics. I don't see our riders working any less...or any less intense....or being any less consumed by the sport. There are many of them that DO work with top dressage, jumper....have done racing, hunting and things other than eventing.

    Are there a ton of them that fit that mold....no. And I know because of where I'm located, I'm running into more of them then the average person..because the dedicated ones move to where I am located to advance themsevles in the sport. They are out there and they are doing all of those things....but there are not a ton of them. Which is what I would expect....just like there are not many who make it to the winter Olympics.

    ETA: The other difference is these riders are aiming for a lifetime. Not just one or two Olymipics. Since as you have pointed out...you can be competitive in this sport as a rider for many many years. So they are as intense as they should be for a race that is not a sprint...but a marathon.
    Last edited by bornfreenowexpensive; Feb. 18, 2010 at 11:07 AM.
    ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **



  5. #25
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    Interesting thread...I'll tell you who I admire in our sport because of the message they give: those trainers and riders who are in that 2nd and 3rd tier below the elite riders...those with 1 or 2 nice horses that they train to their very best ability - they're usually in the top ten in any level but never are the winners, train those kids and ammies every day and hour possible to be both good riders and horwsewomen and horsemen, bust their butts making ends meet on their homes and farms...and they more than likely are NEVER going to get to that 1st tier.

    Some of these folks DO cross train, and ones I know personally will do whatever it takes to get better - but time and money factor into the big picture...

    These folks give me the message that horses and riding matter, that doing the best you can do every day matters. JMHO
    Last edited by RunForIt; Feb. 18, 2010 at 11:20 AM.
    ~ it no longer matters what level I do, as long as I am doing it..~ with many thanks, to Elizabeth Callahan



  6. #26
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    I think there are a few key differences.

    A lot of skiers/skaters train very intensively for a few years then move on to something completely different.

    Olympic riders are not about the quick burst so much as creating a system to sustain the development of their horses and their riding for decades. This does involve physical fitness and training but also a good business model and a source of new horses--all sorts of outside-the-gym concerns.

    Additionally unlike other athletes riders do have goals that trump even the Olympics--safe happy and healthy horses. And they usually are willing and able to wait until the next Olympics--a luxury sports that favor the young don't have--to ensure that they preserve their horses.

    Steely determination is a great thing but riders are forced to add a certain restraint and broader picture at times. It requires a more mature and thoughtful athlete.



  7. #27
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    When I was watching the downhill last night, two things in particular stood out to me...

    -the woman who was expected to do very well and she crashed less than 100 yds from the start gates- years of work, the same work that Lindsay Vonn put in, POOF. Dream over.

    -Then Lindsay Vonn in her post-victory interview said something along the lines of "I've given up everything for this". Fantastic for her that she won- but everyone else out there also gave up everything, and they didn't win.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thames Pirate View Post
    What it comes down to is this: what sacrifices am I willing to make for my riding? I know the answers. As I said, I'm NOT willing to sacrifice my relationship. That's ultimately the biggest thing. I COULD go get a second job, spend every day at the barn, and never have time for myself or fiance. I could insist that we live in a tiny apt with roommates rather than our own home so I don't have to make mortgage payments and can instead take an extra lesson or buy a better horse. Those things are not fair to the fiance, and so I can't do them. It means I probably won't make any Olympic teams, but I'll have to live with that. It's the choice I made, and it's the choice made for me by my parents, who placed the premium on education over horses (I did practically no recognized HT growing up because the rule was that I couldn't miss school for horse things--and I never did). Incidentally, how often does that happen--parents say you aren't allowed to be that single-minded, thus ending someone's chances before they're out of the gate (not saying that's the case with me, but it is with some sports, such as gymnastics or figure skating). It's just another factor.
    I think this is very well written. Probably very few people ARE willing to give up everything for such a single-minded goal that could take years and years of your life andyou still may never get there... or you may ALMOST get there and then you crash 100 yds out of the gate.
    ~Living the life I imagined~



  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by hey101 View Post
    ... -Then Lindsay Vonn in her post-victory interview said something along the lines of "I've given up everything for this". Fantastic for her that she won- but everyone else out there also gave up everything, and they didn't win. ....
    This quote REALLY bothered me. Vonn is an amazing skier and as a former elite athlete in another sport her determination and willingness to work through pain is admirable.

    BUT, I don't think that she gave everything up - I think that is a cop out. She chose to do something she loves and does well. Her choice meant that some other things were put aside (for now) but she could have chosen to do them instead if they were more attractive than skiing. She could have easily said that she is so happy that her choice to focus intensely on skiing paid off!

    As you said.... its a choice that did not pay off for a large number of the competitors.



  9. #29
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    From a parent's perspective.

    I have a young daughter who is showing some talent for ice skating and gymnastics. I am pretty sure I DO NOT want her to focus exclusively on either of these two sports and get sucked down that road. if SHE decides when she is older that she really really really wants to pursue it, ok. But I totally agree w/ whom ever was talking about post -olympic athletes being at a loss and one dimensional. I don't want that for her. I want her to see herself as being a whole, valued person with multiple talents.

    The same can be said for research scientists who are highly successful - but they can be very one dimensional - science and nothing else. I have personally not chosen this path as well. I prefer to ride, have kids, etc than focus only on science. It doesn't mean I don't like/love doing research but I also do other things, too.

    I agree w/ whom ever said it is a matter of choices and priorties. To each his own...



  10. #30
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    I think that the fact that oh... more than half of equestrian is the horse. Apollo Ohno and Shaun White can push themselves as much as they wish to. They can be thoroughly dedicated and push.

    But you can't do that to the horses. Horses are so different. Because it isn't just about the athlete managing themself. The horse is the athlete and can't speak. The horse needs to be managed with his needs first, not the riders needs. I don't think an intensely competitive rider is a particular good thing as it can lead to abuse of the horse.

    As horsepeople, we would abhor the rider who was so intense that they put the ability to win above all the way some of these athletes do. Indeed, those riders who have pushed through and hurt their partners are pretty much villified in the riding community. We can admire Lindsey Vaughn skiing through her injured shin, but we will judge harshly rider X pushing on a sore horse.



  11. #31
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    Default Double standard?

    One thing I find interesting is that every time our riders fail to do especially well at some big event, there`s lots of criticism levelled at everything from our coach, to our system, to our horse breeding program (or lack thereof), to our kid`s horsemanship, and on and on.

    But then if someone does do what it takes to become one of the rare true elite, then that person gets criticised too, for other failings, like being obsessive, not well rounded, also on and on.

    Do you think most of the greats in virtually ANY sport escape that double standard?



  12. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by magnolia73 View Post
    As horsepeople, we would abhor the rider who was so intense that they put the ability to win above all the way some of these athletes do. Indeed, those riders who have pushed through and hurt their partners are pretty much villified in the riding community. We can admire Lindsey Vaughn skiing through her injured shin, but we will judge harshly rider X pushing on a sore horse.


    GREAT point. I think the problem lies that we are unable to "talk" to equine partners to gage when too much is too much. All athletes, including equine, at the highest level, endure some degree of soreness but the trick for riders is to know when to hold up their hand for the sake of their partner.



  13. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by denny View Post
    One thing I find interesting is that every time our riders fail to do especially well at some big event, there`s lots of criticism levelled at everything from our coach, to our system, to our horse breeding program (or lack thereof), to our kid`s horsemanship, and on and on.

    But then if someone does do what it takes to become one of the rare true elite, then that person gets criticised too, for other failings, like being obsessive, not well rounded, also on and on.

    Do you think most of the greats in virtually ANY sport escape that double standard?
    no, I don't think you can escape that tag for several reasons...due to human nature. One, many people have learned to criticize as habit - and will. Two, jealousy and envy seem to be part and parcel of some's human nature and criticism is the observable behavior of those traits...again, JMO. I am sometimes in both camps.
    ~ it no longer matters what level I do, as long as I am doing it..~ with many thanks, to Elizabeth Callahan



  14. #34
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    I have known several very intense athletes but two stick out for me. The one who not only put in the physical work but also did the mental imagery and positive self-talk and "did I do everything I could today" and "I am working towards the Olympics" every day. When her horse went lame after she was selected to the Team, she said it was the most devastating thing that could have happened. If she hadn't been so focused on that one goal, it wouldn't have had the same effect - she ended up deciding to take a different approach for successive goals.

    Another who competed in downhill skiing. Spent hours at the gym, moved away for coaching, was doing homework on the bus on every trip. Voted MVP of her team as the hardest worker and the most inspirational. Yet 2 canceled downhills in one year, meaning lack of qualification points, slashed her chances at being selected for moving up to team training. The following year the rules got changed, and selection was focused on the 2-years-younger generation... etc. etc. And suddenly after 8+ years of intensive focused training, she was "too old" at 20 to be considered.

    Both athletes told me that when you put everything you have, your heart & soul into something - doing what everyone says an athlete at that level should do, must do, physically and mentally, and the hard work "will pay off" - but then it doesn't - it can be completely crushing. It takes huge strength of character to motivate oneself and push towards the pinnacle, and I think a failure at that level can hurt that type of athlete at a bigger magnitude than what we mere mortals might experience when we have a disappointment, but have many other aspects of our lives to focus on.
    Blugal

    You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng



  15. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by snoopy View Post
    It is also intersting to note those "one horse wonders".

    These riders, for what ever reason, be that lack of horses, funding, sponsors, day jobs etc, spend that bit of extra time developing their horses to compete and win at the highest levels...


    Which begets the question, does the horse make the rider? How does Denny judge the athlete rider as opposed to the athlete horse?

    We all know great riders who never stood on a podium.

    The same can be said for research scientists who are highly successful - but they can be very one dimensional - science and nothing else. I have personally not chosen this path as well. I prefer to ride, have kids, etc than focus only on science. It doesn't mean I don't like/love doing research but I also do other things, too.
    You aren't talking about me? Maybe Sheldon on Big Bang Theory. But that is a great point and also goes to Denny's comment:
    Do you think most of the greats in virtually ANY sport escape that double standard?
    Everything I do is subject to critique. My papers, my students, my teaching, all of it has to undergo external review. The same is in medical school and subsequent training (it is based on the classic graduate school training throughout history). I like to think that I was smart enough to go and work for 7 years before going back to graduate school and becoming the myopic bastard I am.

    Hell Einstein's work is still being criticised!

    Reed



  16. #36
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    I hope Lindsey Vonn enjoys her gold medal. I hope it's worth the self-absorption, the single-mindedness, the lopsided marriage, the messed-up family life, etc. The NYT profile of her was what you'd expect; I especially liked how Bill Pennington charitably characterized her as 'not given to introspection.'

    But for now, the world is all about her and her gold medal. Five minutes from now, not so much.

    I don't know that a sport like eventing benefits from that kind of mindset. You have a horse to think about and you need a more flexible approach because the horse isn't a machine.

    Single-minded, self-absorbed athletes are a dime a dozen. Truly interesting ones like Sócrates are a much rarer breed.



  17. #37
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    What comes across isn`t so much that there`s a double standard as much as there are at least two, maybe more, standards of "success".

    Some feel that "getting it done" is a worthy goal, in and of itself. When I was at the USET, working with Jack Le Goff, that was our mission. It worked, in the sense that we did get it done.

    Others feel that the price to pay is too high. That the sacrifices aren`t worth the rewards. That`s an ok standard, too, as long as it`s truly ok with the individual setting the standard.

    The problem is that it`s probably not usually possible to have it both ways, to lead a balanced life, and also stand on the podium.

    So it depends upon you. Which do YOU want. I can`t answer for you, nor you for me.


    Do I now, 35 years later, think it was worth it for me? Yes.

    Would I do it again if I could? Yes.

    But there are prices to everything. There`s a price for trying, and there`s also a price for not trying. It depends on you to decide which is the higher price, it seems to me.



  18. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blugal View Post
    Both athletes told me that when you put everything you have, your heart & soul into something - doing what everyone says an athlete at that level should do, must do, physically and mentally, and the hard work "will pay off" - but then it doesn't - it can be completely crushing. It takes huge strength of character to motivate oneself and push towards the pinnacle, and I think a failure at that level can hurt that type of athlete at a bigger magnitude than what we mere mortals might experience when we have a disappointment, but have many other aspects of our lives to focus on.
    I agree completely with those who have stated how the single-minded focus to WIN and go to the Olympics can create a false shell, a fleeting purpose in life that (especially in our sport) is difficult to achieve and easily crushed.

    Would I love to ride for the USA someday? Heck yes! I love competing at the upper levels, the challenge and thrill of completing an advanced course, the not-unrealistic dream of riding at Rolex, Badminton, and Burghley. But you know what? If I base my SOLE self-worth on my competition results, and a preconceived schedule of "ride at Rolex by age 23," I'd spend a lot of my life disappointed and depressed. Sometimes things happen beyond your control, and if those things keep you from your sole goal in life, it's hard to keep going.

    Instead of the single-minded drive to compete and win, I take a lot of pride and pleasure in the journey. I love riding and training every day. I love breaking babies, working with young horses, the daily successes no matter how small. Maybe I'll never ride for the USET because I'm *not* obsessive enough about that goal...but I'm a much happier person when I'm able to enjoy other horse-related achievements. When I crashed & burned at Fair Hill CCI** this past fall, I was devastated; but the following weekend, I took two greenies to an unrecognized novice horse trial and both exceeded expectations...and that was just so satisfying. I'm not saying I want to novice forever-- lord no!-- I love the upper levels and that's where I feel like I belong (on the right horse). But, for me at least, the ability to enjoy the little moments keeps me on an even keel, and helps balance out the darkest low days.

    I do think the sacrifices are worth the rewards-- but sometimes the rewards aren't exactly what you were expecting. If you can learn to enjoy what you have, instead of what you don't, I think that keeps you going. And appreciating where you are doesn't mean you lack ambition; just that your ambition does not overrun everything in life to a depressing degree.
    “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
    ? Albert Einstein

    ~AJ~



  19. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by denny View Post
    What comes across isn`t so much that there`s a double standard as much as there are at least two, maybe more, standards of "success".

    ....

    But there are prices to everything. There`s a price for trying, and there`s also a price for not trying. It depends on you to decide which is the higher price, it seems to me.

    Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

    The young professor next to me is listed as one of the top minds in the US in 2009 and even had lunch with the president because of that honor. At the same time, I wonder how much time he has outside of this world (he is an adventure back country skier). Luckily his wife is in med school. So like you, Denny, like all of us, he chose a path and committed to it to get where he is.

    The difference in the horse world is also are we willing to pay the "price" of injured horses in order to elevate the human athlete? That is a question that is NEVER asked in any other sport.



  20. #40
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    I have to comment to say how much I admire the cross-training of these Olympic athletes. Perhaps if the take-away message here, particularly to the amateurs, who may never have aspirations of competing at the higher levels, is that these athletes do many different sports, use many training tools, to build and achieve better overall fitness.

    Through my own experience, it isn't possible to stay competition-ready by riding merely 1-2 horses per day, without added cross-training. And how can you expect your horse to perform to the best of their abilities, if their partner can't perform to the same standard?

    So yes, drive and ambition, are traits necessary for competitors. And we can agree that this is true whatever the level of competition. But what has stood out the most from watching the Olympic athletes, is their dedication to cross-training, to keeping fitness fun and different.

    And in the cold northeast, I need something fun to get me to the gym instead of curled up on the couch with some hot cocoa!
    O! for a horse with wings! ~William Shakespeare, Cymbeline **or a unicorn horn. Whatever works.**



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