Having just competed at the 2022 National Working Equitation Championships I have been reflecting on competing and my feelings and attitude towards it. I use the competition as a test of my training. We can all be fabulous at home. Getting lovely ribbons and prizes is wonderful but that does not motivate me to compete. In fact, with Covid and the dreadful weather Australia has been experiencing in the last three years, competitions have been few and far between. I enjoy the training and the journey with the horse, being satisfied with accomplishing goals at home. However, going away with friends and enjoying testing yourself is always a great experience. I was with a super group of supportive women.
What I didn’t like was the rejoicing some people displayed when a fellow competitor was eliminated or had an unfortunate ride. The rivalry between clubs and States was something I had not experienced before. Working Equitation is a sport where elimination is always looming. In fact my two goals for the recent competition were:
To perform at a standard where the international judge did not think I was hopeless and
To not get eliminated.
The first was achieved and the second partially. To save myself after Bluefields Fiderglanz cleared the jump obstacle as if he were competing in the Grand Prix show jumping class, I momentarily held the rein with my right hand, therefore elimination. It happens. Even at the World Championships there were eliminations. So I am not devasted and in fact rather happy to see the scope my boy has!
It is interesting to note that the competitors who were happy with the misfortune of others were often the lowest level riders. For them the exercise was to win accolades in the form of prizes. I have never tried to beat anyone except myself. I have won competitions where I was unhappy with my performance and lost competitions where I was pleased with my performance.
As a coach I understand the positive reinforcement of ribbons but I always emphasise the competition is a test of your training. When I have reports of the sportsmanship shown by my young students I am proud indeed. Learning from the experience and improving your training is the key.
So to have the best experience from competing set yourself goals that are measurable and achievable yet challenging. Stay away from the ribbon hunters and surround yourself with like minded positive and supportive people.