From Endurance to Dressage
How Low Can You Go?
I am an over-achiever. This is great in many ways; dinner gets cooked nightly, laundry doesn’t pile up, and our household bills are always paid on time. BUT. No one is perfect at everything, which means the over-achiever, me in particular, frequently under-achieves. This can feel devastating.
I am actually tired of writing about this, but one purpose my blog serves is to be a place where I can work on issues like this one, and I clearly need to work on this. I know that my feelings of failure often keep me from succeeding, or at least feeling successful. Especially when it comes to Sydney.
I get so much support from family and friends; they all think I have accomplished a great deal. I wish I knew to what they were comparing me. Compared to a non-rider, yeah, I guess I am successful; I show, I go to clinics, and I get ribbons. Compared to other active competitors, we don’t stack up too well.
So what do I do? The range from successful to total suckiness is vast. Hilda Gurney and Steffen Peters are successful. How can I say I am successful without qualifying the statement with a million buts? Do I say, I am successful as an adult ammie in the lowest levels of my sport when the classes are really small? Well, whoop-de-do.
How is success defined in dressage? Secretly, I do feel successful, but not in the way it counts. Or, at least not in the ways I want it to count. I want to win classes; I want to move up a level each year; I want someone to say, wow, she has a great seat. But none of that is happening. Hence, I am an under-achieving, over-achiever.
My list of secret successes is pretty small and not always dressage related:
I haul my horses and myself to any show that I want to with confidence and without needing to follow someone else’s plan. This is not dressage specific, of course, since I’ve been doing that for more than a decade, but it’s still something I feel good about.
I moved from a detail-oriented sport where success was based on completion time and for many, longevity, to a sport that requires a completely different level of attention to detail and the perfection of movements. This success, however, is tempered by the degree to which I’ve done the latter.
I guess that I should also include the fact that I am (probably) ready to start showing at First Level. When I first started showing Introductory Level in the summer of 2010, I would have been in absolute Heaven to be attempting First Level so I know that must count as a success.
I know you must be waiting for some big punch line: wah, wah, but here’s my epiphany type of thing. Sorry. I am still searching and waiting for the epiphany. Why can't I feel satisfied by the small steps that I am taking? How can I care just a little bit less? How do I stop feeling embarrassed by how far I have to go?
And buried within that idea is probably the very answer I need.
10/16/2013 11:46:03 pm
I think you need to redefine your success.
10/19/2013 11:19:35 pm
"Your transition with Speedy was easier, because you had already established the conversation and had been having a conversation with him for years before you changed the context."
I agree with Karen Burch -- I've learned that in order to compete and feel successful, I have to compete against myself.
I struggle with this as well. Competing against myself doesn't really work for me, instead I try to keep the big goals nebulous and instead focus on each individual ride. Live the moment, if you will. That keeps me from feeling like each day is a disaster, or like I'm stagnating. It doesn't work for everyone, but it keeps me seeking the good moments in every ride. It also ensures that I find something enjoyable about every day's work, whether that thing is finally feeling the hind end engage through a lengthening, or just watching the sunset from my horse's back and feeling the day's stress melt away.
10/17/2013 02:06:40 am
Those are some really good comments! I must echo them all. I too am an over-achiever and get frustrated easily. Even though I am still competing at Training level, I have learned that the goal to competition is with my self. I try to get better scores each show with and end goal of 65. Once I reach the "end goal" I use that as an indicator I am ready for the next level.
It's hard to feel satisfied in this sport. There's always a new goal. A new challenge, and not to mention you see other people overcome obstacles and be really successful at shows and you wonder why you can't do that too? Just try to look at how far you've come! That's what I do when I'm feeling a little down.
Funny, I really don't see this as a sport. I never have. I've always seen it as a relationship with a horse and stuff to do that's fun with the horse. My goals are to get him healthy and balanced and out of pain. My goals are to get me out of pain and strong enough to ride as much as I want. But I guess that makes me different from most, because I don't want to compete. I'm a rider not a competitor.
10/17/2013 02:16:15 am
Hi Karen! Like you, I've been riding for a very long time and want to feel like I've done something and am going in the right direction. I also have heard along the way "Never blame the horse" when things aren't going the rider's way. However, there comes a time when we as riders have to make a honest evaluation of the horse we are riding and ask "Is this horse going to be able to take me where I want to go?" It's yes or no. Black or White. Each horse has his performance level, and it's either decided by physical and/or mental limitations. There is nothing more disheartening to have a horse that has blue blooded breeding for the discipline you want to ride in, tons of athletic ability but no desire to do it. I have one of those right now. He would rather go pick daisies than chase cows. So we're going to try the Western Dressage next year.
Boy, I hear ya on this one Karen. I'm no where near where my heart says I should be at, and every little success is shadowed by this overwhelming realization that others have achieved it faster, better, and with far more style then I could do it in.
10/17/2013 11:00:56 am
Whew! It sounds as though this life raft is full! Thank you all for the many comments. You raise interesting points.
10/17/2013 01:30:56 pm
I think if your horse, and your relationship with that horse, is improving- you are a success.
10/17/2013 08:45:07 pm
I do not use competition as a barometer for success. This is partly because I rarely compete and partly because there are too many variables beyond your control. I prefer to see the journey as a means to success. I think of riding more as an art, which is not so easily measured. This works for me and believe me, I am also an overachiever. You should see my academic records!
I hear you on this one! I am an absolute perfectionist; which is probably why I ended up in dressage... Which, of course, is the one discipline where perfection can rarely be attained!
10/19/2013 11:35:54 pm
CG - you're right. I am not in it for the ribbons, but it's not just about the relationship either. When I rode endurance, the same was true. If we are TRULY in it for the horse, we would never ask them to do anything hard. Horses were not put on earth for our enjoyment (speaking scientifically). Any time we ride them, we are creating an artificial experience for them to serve our own purpose. Horses do not require our "teaching" to become better. They're just fine out in a field without our interference. With that said, all of us who ride are using our horses to serve our own purposes to one extent or the other.
Comments are closed.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: