On the way home from the show, I called my dearest friend in the world to talk about the show. We've been friends for twenty years, so I can count on her to be honest and truthful with me even when I don't want to hear what she has to say. Her reaction to our placing surprised me. She asked if when I first started dressage (four years ago) did I ever imagine I'd be where I am today. What?! But I am nowhere. Four years later and I am still at training level. My response shocked her. That led me to do a lot of thinking.
To be completely honest, I want to be good, really good. I want to win classes and move through the levels quickly. I want a fancy horse and a dressage trainer that I see several times a week. We all want those things, I am sure of it. The thing is, I could probably have those things, but I'd have to give up the life that I am leading right now in order to have them.
I am not willing to do that. I could buy a better horse and move him to a barn in Ventura, and I could drive down there every weekend and train. But if I did that, the balanced life that I have created for myself would disappear. My husband would probably divorce me, we wouldn't be able to travel around the world like we've been doing for the past 20 years, and I would always be counting my pennies.
How do I measure success then? I am not going to win at the big shows, obviously, but does that make me unsuccessful? At first, I did feel a bit of disappointment. I had told myself that middle of the field was "successful" and everything lower than that was not - for me. But after reading all of your many comments, I decided to be happy with simply having gone and competed.
At the show, I also realized that I wasn't actually competing with just adult amateurs like myself. As several of my friends pointed out, many of the AA riders are actually assistant trainers and many of the other riders have horses in full time training. That my scores were even in the same atmosphere should make me proud (Rarefied Air is what one friend calls it).
I bet that many of those assistant trainers and riders with horses in full training don't get to have half the fun that I do in the rest of my life. I think I would rather have the whole package (a great marriage, travel, a second horse, the cabin, etc.) rather than do what it would take for me to win at the big shows.
So let me raise my cup and salute those who have chosen a different path in life than me; I wish them nothing but success. As for me and my house, we'll be just as happy without that tenth place ribbon as we plan our next vacation and play fetch with the dog.