It’s upon us. It is nearly the end of 2020, the weirdest year in recent memory. Depending on where you live, the end of the year might mean a break from riding and competing a bit, and the opportunity to plan for next season. Some of us have had to put riding and competing on hold altogether this year, so 2021 offers a light at the end of the tunnel, a new year where we can hopefully get back into the swing of things again.
I have to confess that I am not good at being a rider in the off-season. This year, for about a week after my last competition I felt content and glad to have a break. But now, just a couple of weeks later, I am itching to get going again. I know most of the dates of the competitions in my area for the first half of the year because I’ve read the schedule so many times. Sometimes I wake up debating what the schedule should be for this horse, or when I should move that horse up. It’s a combination of anxiety and excitement.
Bendigo giving me some suggestions about the show schedule for next year. Photo courtesy Ema Klugman.
It is fun to plan. There are actually studies that show that planning for a vacation brings people more joy than the vacation itself. I think part of the excitement of planning lies in the possibilities, but also the unknowns. It is good to have something to look forward to.
How do you plan? In the sport of eventing, where I focus my efforts, we usually build up to a three-day event in the spring and another three-day in the fall. We may target smaller competitions in between these bigger ones, but generally all of the smaller ones are used as preparatory events for the three-days.
It’s easy to get ambitious with planning. And it is great to have big goals! However, a rider should always think about the realities of their situation: their own experience, their horse’s experience, their horse’s ability, their time to train, their ability to take time off of work or school to compete, and their financial limitations. It’s good to be ambitious, but you also have to be realistic. Maybe it’s better to focus your efforts and funds into lessons and clinics before getting to the show ring. Or maybe you just want to compete occasionally, to have a good time. It is okay to not be insanely competitive; you are allowed to enjoy the sport for the joy it gives you and nothing more.
The problem with horses is that they make it very difficult to plan. Anyone who has ridden or owned horses knows this. You might have mapped out plan A, but by the time the horses work their magic of pulling shoes, saddling you with vet bills, or coming up with some other creative way to throw a wrench in that plan, you will have to move onto plan B, C, D, or E. When we map out our schedules, we just have to accept this unpredictability. The horse is not a robot. Life will sometimes get in the way of fun things we have planned. That’s okay, and it’s not the end of the world. Last I checked there were always more horse shows.