Friday, May. 24, 2024

There’s Always Tomorrow

The most predictable thing about horses is that they’re incredibly unpredictable.

It seems that at the very moment you begin to believe your horse has mastered a particular skill you’ve worked on for months, or he’s realized that there’s no six-foot carnivorous squirrel in the oak trees adjacent to the outdoor ring, you’ll throw that belief out the window when he trips through a gymnastic or spooks and bolts across the ring.
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The most predictable thing about horses is that they’re incredibly unpredictable.

It seems that at the very moment you begin to believe your horse has mastered a particular skill you’ve worked on for months, or he’s realized that there’s no six-foot carnivorous squirrel in the oak trees adjacent to the outdoor ring, you’ll throw that belief out the window when he trips through a gymnastic or spooks and bolts across the ring.

While watching the $950,435 CN International at the Spruce Meadows Masters (p. 8), I observed yet again why those of us who have a passion for horses find them so frustrating yet rewarding simultaneously.

Of the 39 horses and riders in the starting field, there were dozens with Olympic, World Cup, World Championship, European Championship and Pan American Championship medals on their resumes. These are the elite of the elite in show jumping. Yet, only one of these talented duos—Hickstead and Eric Lamaze—jumped double clear on this day.

Each of the remaining competitors made errors that resulted in faults. Some made many, others very few. Some were expected, others were surprising.

Al Kaheel Cavalor Cumano, the best horse at the 2006 World Equestrian Games (Germany), was one of the unexpected. With reigning World Champion Jos Lansink aboard, the gray stallion was certainly a favorite for the victory. He’d risen to the occasion in 2004 and could easily do it again. This amazing horse appears to bounce over the tallest verticals and widest oxers with ease, and it’s hard to believe he could ever drop a rail.

But on this day he did.

Similarly, the bay stallion Arko III has proven his talent over some of the most difficult courses in the world with British rider Nick Skelton. But this day he decided the in-gate was just too enticing and ducked out, costing the veteran Skelton his opportunity to capture the prestigious class for the fourth time.

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What’s a rider to do?

Certainly disappointment is in order. But after that? Experienced horsemen know you just have to regroup and try again another day.

Columnist Bill Moroney had just such a day not long ago when nothing seemed to go his way with his hunter, and he reflected on his experiences in his column “Keeping Perspective With Horses” (p. 52). Just as horses can have an off day, so too can people.

Our sport is unique in that not only do we have to be “on” for the best performance, but our horse must also possess that same state of mind concurrently.

So when you think about all of the different things that can go wrong between horse and rider on any given day, the excellent performances we all achieve with our equine partners are even more notable. And for all of the frustrating days that we have on the way to establishing that partnership and moving up the levels, there’s bound to be a reward if we maintain patience and perseverance.

While most of us won’t have our moment in the sun at a venue such as Spruce Meadows with 60,000 fans cheering, the true reward can be as simple as fixing what went wrong the previous day. As Bill notes, keeping things in perspective is one of the most important aspects of being a good horseman.

Tricia Booker

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