When I first started as an Introductory Level rider in the summer of 2010, I thought everyone else rode beautifully, especially those riders a few levels above me. I would watch their warmups, particularly at Second and above, and think there was NO WAY I could ever ride as well as that.
That was one of the biggest insights I had: I am no better than anyone else, but I am not WORSE than everyone else either! Realizing that I am not a terrible rider or that conversely we all are, did a ton for my confidence. While we aren't Charlotte, that doesn't mean that we can't be good.
One of the ladies then added, in a very embarrassed tone, that she couldn't even remember the last time she rode at First Level. I bet Hilda Gurney does. It was probably fairly recently, too. Oh, wait; I just looked it up. She rode Training Level in May and again in April and again in March.
If that rider only knew how long it had taken me to get through First Level! I didn't take her comment personally. I just shrugged my shoulders, knowing that they were simply expressing their own feelings of inadequacy. I've got plenty of my own. But then I realized that we're all there for our own personal goals. No one's goal is better or worse than anyone else's. And suddenly, I didn't feel so outclassed after all.
One reason I go to this particular venue is because the show is managed by my dear friend Jen. She's an amazing show manager and puts up with some unbelievable weirdness. Dressage riders are a curious bunch. I spent my non-riding time as her beck and call girl. I ran tests from the judge to the show office for tabulating, I did some printer troubleshooting, and then I even helped the guys dismantle the dressage court so it could be moved to a different ring for Sunday's rides.
When I wasn't riding or helping out Jen, I spent some time laughing with my friend Sarah who helped me both unload and load crap. She just finished saving her gelding Enzo's eye. He has spent months battling an eye infection that started with a very small ulcer. She hopes to be showing in July. I'm certainly rooting for her.
Valerie is just one of the most down to earth people you'd ever want to meet. We spent hours giggling over our score sheets - she rode 3-3 and 4-1. We both laughed at comments we'd never seen before: vague, modest, not to CL followed by still not from CL, and my favorite, 11-meters (in reference to my 10-meter canter circle). We practically snorted over the 11-meter comment. It was just such a precise comment while my circle clearly was not.
This show definitely showed me what I am not. I am not Charlotte, but no one else is either. I am not a terrible rider and neither are the rest of you. I am not out there doing this alone. I have a lot of friends who want us to do well because that's what friends and fellow competitors should want.
And finally, while I didn't get a single qualifying score, I am not disappointed. Go figure!