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Retirement vs dropping down the levels

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  • Retirement vs dropping down the levels

    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.

  • #2
    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!
    ... and Patrick


    • #3
      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


      • #4
        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.


        • #5
          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.
          The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.


          • #6
            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.
            Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
            Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)


            • #7
              Originally posted by Ajierene View Post
              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.
              I evented just for the Halibut.


              • #8
                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.


                • #9
                  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.

                  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.
                  Last edited by purplnurpl; Jan. 24, 2011, 12:18 PM.
                  Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!


                  • #10
                    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.
                    Big Idea Eventing


                    • #11
                      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.
                      Last edited by bornfreenowexpensive; Jan. 24, 2011, 03:15 PM.
                      ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


                      • #12
                        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.


                        • #13
                          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.


                          • #14
                            I thought many of them 'retired from international competitions'. Not eventing all together.
                            Even duct tape can't fix stupid


                            • #15
                              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.



                              • #16
                                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.
                                The rebel in the grey shirt


                                • #17
                                  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.



                                  • Original Poster

                                    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.


                                    • #19
                                      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.


                                      • #20
                                        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.

                                        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!

                                        Last edited by Big Spender; Jan. 24, 2011, 03:25 PM.
                                        Mirror Image 2001-2007