“We won! Yey!” …… “Was it a qualifier?”….. “No, but he went so beautifully, I’m really pleased.”…. “Well, hopefully he will go beautifully again next week at the qualifier where it really matters.” This is a conversation I actually heard What a downer! I walk along at shows and it is all I hear. Even little tots discussing how many they have qualified – I am not always convinced they even know what it means but it bring a smile to their mums face so it must be good. When did it get to this?
I judged at the Wilton Hunt Show a few weeks ago and it was such a breath of fresh air. Everyone seemed to be just enjoying their horses – they weren’t there in order to qualify to be somewhere else, they were there to be there, to ride, to support their local hunt, to see friends… Isn’t that what this is really about? And these small shows, without qualifiers, are suffering because they don’t get the entries anymore.
A few years back, I was lucky to have qualified both my horses for RIHS very early in the season but then was surprised at the reaction of people when I continued to compete. I was literally being asked why I was at shows as I had already qualified! I was at shows because I enjoyed it and I had worked really hard to be good at it and I wanted to compete and to improve and be challenged. I didn’t have horses so I could jump once and then ride in a car park in Birmingham in October!
I love goals. I think everyone should have them. I am a big fan of New Years and setting plans for the year but setting something that is entirely out of your hands as a goal is not the way forward. Aim at jumping clear rounds, aim at making your horse go better, aim at riding better. Qualifying should be seen as a bonus of doing well not as a goal in itself.
The delightful, Thomas Quiney recently qualified his pony, Lowlands Papillon, for HOYS. When asked if he knew what he had done that day, he didn’t, so was he was told “You’ve qualified for the biggest show in the world.” His response “Well, we had better stay close together because there will be a lot of people and I might get lost!” He has his priorities right!
I have been lucky enough to ride at both RIHS and HOYS and can honestly say I would swap every ride for some more time with my old horse. Remember what is important and enjoy every minute you have. Enjoy the shows you are at. Don’t miss that joy while heading somewhere else.