I know a lot of people ride horses non-competitively and are perfectly happy achieving training goals and just all-around enjoying their horse. Unfortunately (because competitions can be expensive), I'm not one of those people. I'm the kind of person who needs to constantly challenge myself or I'm bored. Competitions give me that challenge. I am so much more motivated to train when I know I have a goal set of attending a competition.
I think I went to my first show when I was 8 years old. I rode my welsh pony Diamond in a welsh pony show. My major memory of that show was staring longingly at the prize table where there was a welsh pony tote bag I wanted so badly. I asked my mom to buy it for me, but as it was a prize, that didn't happen. I hadn't won anything off that table, since Diamond was a typical pony and I didn't have a lot of riding experience yet. But somehow in our western pleasure class, everything came together and we ended up in first place. The prize? My tote bag! I guess that was the point where my fate was sealed and I was hooked.
After Diamond I got my first horse, a quarter horse named Casper (registered Shock N Roll). We went through the ranks of 4-H, where I was usually near the top, since my parents spent a lot more that more parents to make sure I had a safe, trained horse to learn on (a rant on parents buying untrained horses for their 13-year-old 4H kid is for another post entirely). I showed in 4H at the club and regional level and went to lots of open shows. I won a pile of classes with Casper, as well as high points. On the flip side, I didn't do so great in a lot of classes as well. Casper was a lazy, somewhat-cranky western show horse, which meant he was too slow for gymkana and too lazy for jumping (although that didn't stop me from trying both).
Once I had outgrown Casper, my parents and I decided I was ready to go up a level and show on the QH circuit. That's when I got Hootie. Hootie and I had our ups and downs, from circuit champions to last-place days and everything inbetween. With Hootie I learned a lot, especially that I'm my own worst enemy and over-think everything. My parents and I decided that it wouldn't be fair for me to show Hootie in 4H as there weren't many horses that would be competitive with him. So I rode a couple of my parent's ranch horses in 4H and the odd open show and had fun. Then I gave up on 4H altogether and focused on my breed shows
From Hootie, I went on to Scarface, a young three-year-old with lots of potential. With Scarface, I confirmed that I think to much, realized how much I preferred the pattern classes over riding around the ring over and over in western pleasure. He was my trail star and won me my first (and only) AQHA trophies for performance all-around and grand champion halter (there were no halter horses that day). In my last QH show with Scarface (2007), we finally won that elusive Canadian Nationals Buckle in Novice Youth Trail (and reserve in Youth Trail and Youth Hunt Seat Equitation).
I enjoyed showing and the training leading up to it. I was always focused, always had a goal, always had a reason to be better than the ride before.
Then, university, work and being an adult got in the way and I didn't compete for 3 years and I know that my rides were less focused and less productive with no upcoming competition to light a fire under my butt. Even making the 1.5-2.5 hour drive out to ride became a chore. At one or two points my parents suggested selling Scarface and I would dissolve into tears, regardless of where we were (including shopping in Banana Republic). Scarface is a forever-horse for me and, as such, I owe it to him to focus and give riding my full effort.
So this summer I swore I would show again. I was planning to go to a AQHA show in May, but the EHV scare caused it to be cancelled or postponed. After this cancellation, I reconsidered my riding goals and realized the AQHA circuit no longer fit my goals. I was more interesting in trying out disciplines like dressage and hunters. Then I moved to a new city to go back to university that's further from my parents, who kindly still keep Scarface around for free. That was a bit of a setback, but I didn't let it stop me. My nieces and I went to a little open show where Scarface realized he enjoyed being a kid's horse, but that wasn't enough. At the end of August, I went to a little dressage schooling show. It might not sound like much, but it was enough to get me hooked on competing again. I proudly display my pair of 6th-place ribbons; not bad for a rehabbing ex-western pleasure horse and rider at their first dressage show.
Now I have the goal of taking lessons over the winter and going to clinics in the spring and showing in some more schooling shows next summer. With a clear competition goal, my motivation is through the roof!
Do any of you feel the same way or am I just crazy competitive (also possible)?