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October 22, 2015
By: Maggie Carty
All equestrians have been asked the question: “What do you ACTUALLY do?
The horse does all the work.’’ Once we take a deep breath and push aside the annoyance, we begin the long explanation of the different disciplines and what is required for each. For me, in the English riding discipline, I often explain that in “hunters” and “equitation,” the horse and rider are being judged on how pretty and effortless their rides appear – working together as a partnership, but the “jumpers” are not judged on appearance whatsoever; instead are scored on time and jumping faults. Fact is, regardless of the style, riders are doing a TON of work up there, all while trying to look poised and confident, even though your insides are screaming “cowgirl up!”
Now, as a collegiate rider, reality has been more of a slap in the face, as it has become difficult to withstand the pressures of looking perfect while also putting in a decent trip, and not looking like a hot mess upon a horse you barely even know. What is even more difficult to accept is when you are riding really well, have an awesome trip, but not pin in the class. “Was I a hot mess? I didn’t feel like a hot mess. My coach wasn’t even yelling at me!” - my thoughts while leaving the ring without a ribbon.
Over the years, I have dabbled in all three rings and I enjoy all three tasks equally. I love the thrill of the jumpers, the precision in hunters, and the effortlessness of equitation. What I don’t enjoy, however, is not knowing what I could have done better for my next round.
Is it solely because my 15.1-hand, little paint mare is not as visually appealing as a 17-hand warmblood or thoroughbred? If it’s not the horse, is it me? Do I have to grow 4 inches and wear size 24 breeches? I will never know. As a collegiate rider, it’s hard not to let these pressures get to you. Would I have won or pinned higher with a different draw? Possibly. Would I have won or pinned higher with the same horse, different judge? Possibly. But we know this walking into the ring – it is part of the sport. It’s one person’s opinion, and to them, I may be riding like a hot mess that day – or not.
Keep in mind that the only person you have to compete against is yourself – and when you walk into the ring, think about that – put in the best ride you can with the draw you were given. With that being said, there is something very satisfying about being an equestrian and that is the love of the sport. The friendships that are made with coaches, teammates, and of course the horse.
About our guest blogger: Maggie Carty is a Senior at Seton Hill University, studying Communications. She is a member of their IHSA team, competing in the Intermediate division. Maggie is the Social Media Intern for The Carousel Horse.
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