Why do I horse show?
I’ve found myself asking this question over and over as I think about the 2016 show season. I planned on trying to qualify for USDF Regional 2 Championships at Training and First Level with Bubba. I’d planned to also qualify him for Local Circuit Championships at Second Level.
Plus I’d hoped to get Buddy going on the Green as Grass and Start Novice levels.
Why do I want to spend roughly 15% of my entire yearly income (yes that’s what I budget for just Bubba’s show season) schleping horses around to muddy sand boxes in the tri-state area from March until November?
I could lie and say that its not about the ribbons because I do enjoy those, and on the rare occasion we don’t place, I’m pretty pissed, usually at myself. I like to win. I want to win. I want to compete against other people.
I usually tell people that it’s about the score and that’s why I like dressage so much, immediate feedback and all that.
If I’m honest with myself I do like hanging out with other horse people and spending time with the ponies, but again, I can get paid to do that while I carry a camera around.
I like the recognition. One of the reasons I wanted to try for Regionals next year is because I know we can be competitive at Training Level and I’m gaining more and more confidence at First. Plus I wanted a chance to compete on a larger scale. We’re ‘ageing out’ of the schooling show circuit so competition has gotten a little thin.
But those don’t feel like good reasons to throw money away and waste a large chunk of my savings account.
Fulfilling my need for shiny things and competition isn’t so important compared to building a savings account so that some day in the distant future I’ll be able to move out of my parent’s house.
I do notice that ‘having fun’ isn’t on my little list. And it should be.
I was helping to cover a private ‘student show’ at a lesson barn by the studio a few weeks ago and I got to chatting with one of the riders between classes.
She was a bit green, not because she was nervous but because she had walking pneumonia, and she’d just finished a ride a buck class, mostly without stirrups.
She was smiling though and holding up a pink ribbon for her parents to see.
I thought to myself:
If I’d just gutted out a fifteen minute ride a buck class without stirrups, I’d be pissed if I only got 5th.
She wasn’t mad though, pink was her favorite color.
I can’t remember the last time I went to a show and didn’t mind what color I got because I was just happy to get a ribbon.
Sometimes I listen to parents at shows while I’m trying to get candid shots and I hear them say, “Just let her get a darn ribbon.”
Is it the tangible proof of success that they, and I, want in the end?
What real good does a ribbon do? The thrill wore off a long time ago after they started to crowd out the little two foot wire I had hung on my wall.
And that is the heart of the issue I’m having, if I’m doing all this for a little bit of ribbon, then why do it at all?
The more and more show experience I gain the more I realize that, yes it’s a good experience, a good test for you and your horse.
But why not just go to clinics?
I always feel a much greater sense of accomplishment after we go to a clinic. I love learning so listening to someone with much more experience teach all day is always a highlight. Bonus points if there are upper level riders attending so I can watch them too!
But those darn things are SOO expensive. I get a bit nervous shelling out $200+ dollars for an hour-ish lesson.
And there I think I’ve found the true issue of why I’m having trouble justifying a show season next year, the money.
I’ve pilfered my savings accounts for the last two years to fund a show season, last year’s was successful but the year before that…lets not talk about 2014.
As a freelancer and someone who is primarily self employed, income can be a little up and down. Spending $500-$600 for a two day dressage show, not counting membership fees, seems a little irresponsible when that might be all you make in a lean month.
Hopefully with the start of my substitute teaching next semester I’ll feel less ambivalent about shelling out the money to compete at rated shows.
Still though, I want to have fun.
Maybe that should be my focus for my riding goals in 2016, having fun.
Now, to figure out how to have fun at a horse show…