Kate and I competed this weekend at our first recognized dressage show of the year at the Green Mountain Horse Association in South Woodstock, VT. It's always a big deal. We usually do our last show in October, so that makes a long time until the first one of the next year. In dressage the shows are used as a way to check in on our progress. Scores are given for each of the 20 plus movements and the judge gives additional scores for general impression with comments throughout the test. Kate and I are competing at "Third Level" and these tests take about 6 minutes to execute. So 8 months of training since the last show are crammed into 6 short minutes in the ring. A lot of emotions get wrapped up in that little window of time and so much can effect the outcome. Bad weather, stuff going on around the arena (loose horses, cows in nearby pastures, horses pulling carriages all happen regularly at GMHA) and horse and/or human physical impairments are mostly beyond our control. It starts to feel like a miracle when the stars align and a sound horse and rider trot quietly down centerline on a sunny, cool day!
I think about other sports where people try to go faster (running, rowing, skiing to name a few), sustain accuracy and strength over long periods of time (tennis, golf, archery) or rely on their team to create a machine that works together to perform better than its rivals (hockey, football, baseball), but only a few sports like figure skating, gymnastics and diving zero in on a relatively short period of time when the athlete performs to compete. And then I'll add that we riders have a literally huge piece that can be very unpredictable- our horse!
I've often said that I wish I had taken up bowling when I was a kid instead of horses. All you need is a pair of shoes and a ball. The weather doesn't matter and the lane is the same every time. But I suppose I'd miss all the ups and downs that come with sharing one's life with horses. When those stars do align and things go well and you are rewarded with encouraging scores and comments from the judge, you have extra fuel in your tank and can take on the world, at least for a moment or two!