Raising the Bar

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This week I was going to post another Eric Thomas youtube video that I like…and make the post short and sweet.  Then I wondered if I should even write this because it’s becoming a bit of a hassle, and I feel like no one really cares anyways…but just like in the ET video in my post last week…he says step #2 is to “be faithful over few”. Even if you see no progress. Faithful over few, progress will come. So this blog is one of my few to be faithful for, even if I feel like there is no one in the audience right now.

So I was watching Sunday night football this weekend with my boyfriend, and he wanted the Broncos to lose because it puts us (the Chiefs) in a better position going into our game against the Broncos this coming week.  He got kinda angry when I brought up a very valid (in my opinion) point on the matter. Wouldn’t he rather the Chiefs improved their game to keep up with the Broncos…instead of just hoping the Broncos sucked so we (Chiefs) could keep up with them? I feel like his mindset is totally backwards. Yes, if the Chiefs won this week against the Broncos…it may bring us fame…but winning against a ‘bad’ team…isn’t saying a lot about us either.

So it made me realize this totally translates to the horse world.  How many times have you found yourself figuring out how many horses would have to mess up on cross-country or knock 1 or 2 rails in stadium to move you up from 10th place to 1st?  When I get a bad score in dressage….I usually just accept the fact I’m not going to place high so I should just use the rest of it for practice and then I can go home and try again next time.

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I think that’s one of the main things that draws people to compete at the AEC’s.  So many times it comes down to being the absolute best in every phase because the scores are so close, even down to the tenth of a point (or a tie).  If you go to the AEC’s with your horse and expect to be able to move up 10 places…you’re sadly mistaken.  Granted, the higher the level, the more it’s definitely a 3 phase event and not just a dressage show, as some people say about the lower levels.  A lot can change from dressage day to the last horse jumping around Stadium as you move up the levels.

The point I’m trying to make here…is something I think this sport seriously lacks.  People spend so much time hoping that they can produce a mediocre dressage score, and then spend the rest of the time hope everyone else screws up so they can win by default. I dunno about you all, but I’d rather produce an amazing Dressage test and then let the rest of the competition ‘chase’ me.  This pushes me to be better/strive for perfection in every phase and not give people any room to squeeze their way in.  This theory proves that you win by being better than everyone else (or at least within reach) in every phase rather than being good at one phase and hoping everyone else messes up worse than you.

This way of thinking also produces much more reliable results. You are in control of your own outcome. You know those people that seem to place in the top 3 almost every competition? It’s because they are consistent.  They don’t leave anything up to chance if they don’t have to. They practice to win. And the event is just another practice for them. I do realize that horses are living breathing creatures so it doesn’t ALWAYS go to plan…but more than likely…if you have consistency at home…and bring that to competitions…you’re going to get similar results.

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But there is one point I know people are going to bring up. I know so many riders (I used to be one of them) that talk about their horse being perfect at home, and in warmup for Dressage…but the instant they go into the ring…their horse becomes quick, tense, and basically ignores their rider.  One of the biggest things I learned the past few years is that most of the time, it’s 80-90% the rider who has created that instinct in the horse.  I spent a lot of time riding many tests at Dressage schooling shows…doing just that, schooling. I would go into the ring and halt the horse, or do as many circles as I needed in every corner until the horse relaxed, listened to me, and learned that this relaxed and obedient way of going was their only option in the ring.  All it takes is practice and training ourselves as riders to quit  freaking out when we go down center line and letting the test just happen to us.  I promise, it may not make your tests perfect, but it’s going to help you out a lot if your horse starts going even 50% more relaxed than before.

There is a quote Emily told me once that I’ve never forgotten.

“There are some riders who let things happen
There are some riders who wish for things to happen
And there are riders who MAKE things happen”

I think it was originally quoted from some awesome superstar sports player but regardless, it speaks volumes.

She also taught me that confidence comes from consistency. Once you become consistent in your ways of riding, it becomes second nature. You no longer need to spend as much time thinking about things, so it allows you to relax and let muscle memory do the work.  When you are comfortable, you can start pushing for more…can add flare to your riding. It takes a long time to develop and it takes practice everyday to keep. But it can be done.

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And to bring it back full circle, I’d rather watch the Chiefs play an incredible game against the Broncos this week and lose, rather than have them win by playing a mediocre game and hoping the Broncos mess up.  Either way, step up to play at the highest level, win or lose.

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