Blog 1: The inexperienced horse at a competition

Hi everyone, I am planning on writing a blog about my competitive journey which started with unaffiliated walk and trot tests aged 12. In doing so I am going to centre these stories around the fears and worries I experienced and what I did about them. My hope is that I can provide entertaining anecdotes about my journey so far so that you can see what I did well, how I messed up and what I learnt from it all! My topics are going to range from riding young horses to lateral work and from warm up ring fiascos to moving up a level.


Onto today’s blog, of which the topic is based upon riding an inexperienced horse at a competition… Sun shining, birds tweeting and a huge riding club field, this was the stage of which I was to perform on with my 6 year old Irish cob mare. We had not been a combination for very long and I was at this point in my riding journey, an extremely nervous rider. So what better thing to do than to get out there and into a big open space. Facing your fears is very important, we all know that, but that wasn’t what my brain was telling me that morning.


Looking back on that day from where I am now I notice it was a morning much like my competitions that I do now. The struggle of getting Lily clean and the struggle of trying to catch Lily in the stable when she is excited (yes that is not a typo, some days it takes a while before you can catch her in her stable). However this was just the start of our journey, unbeknownst to us, the ups and downs that were going to our way. Unfortunately this is the story of one of our not so good days.


Once I was on board and heading to the warm up, I felt a bit more comfortable. On board now, just the same as at home I told myself, probably through shaky breaths. The warm up was a difficult one, she was so sharp and strong, for the most part I didn’t feel in control, I was just glad that Lily wanted to do something that was vaguely what I asked for even if it didn’t happen right away (which yes is sometimes how you have to ride a mare but we have worked a lot on obedience since then, with the use of transitions, 100’s of them). Into the test and from what I remember it wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t particularly balanced either. Our real problem came when Lily heard the hooves of the horses hacking to the show, on the other side of the hedge. Before I could react she had jumped and galloped out of the arena, towards where the cars were parked. Still in shock I was desperately trying to have some sort of influence over her but I already knew it was too late and we would be eliminated. I was determined to finish the test so I headed back into the arena. I trotted over and did my final centre line regardless, gave her a pat and was relieved that both of us were in one piece. I even felt something that resembled pride when other people on the show ground approached me after to say ‘well held’.


One of my favourite YouTubers Natasha Althoff at your riding success has this saying: there is no such thing as failure, only learning. I wish I had known that then. At that time I knew there was something to be learned from it and pleased that I overcame a challenge but I still felt like a failure. If I could give advice younger self now, it would be to set your own goals for the show day, irrespective of external factors that you can’t control (such as horses hacking by the arena) and take responsibility from the things that you could control better (the speed and balance of my horse) without blaming external factors. If my goal was to have a fun, bonding day out with my inexperienced horse with no pressure, I would have achieved that goal and felt more positive. Even if I hadn’t achieved that goal, I would feel happy that just taking her to the show was a the right direction. I would tell myself to see it as learning for next time and not as failure.

Lily as a six year old at our local riding club show


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