Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Competitive edge part II: The rest of the story

New Web address! behindthebitblog.com

So you may have read the Competitive Edge Part I where I suggest that having a great horse and a great attitude being a victory in and of itself. Doesn't that sound mature and virtuous? Moral high road ho! Lest I appear to you as one unburdened by ego and pride, here is the rest of the story.

Show preparation
Getting ready for the show, I chat with other riders at the barn. It's all very positive talk:
  • I hope Harv and I do a personal best.
  • The whole thing should be fun.
  • The scores are important to track progress.
  • Ribbons don't matter.
We all hope for good weather, a pleasant judge, and a safe trip. Move over Sally Swift, I'm the ultimate "centered" rider.

Arriving at the show
We unload and I jog over to the steward's tent to pick up my number. Approaching the table, I pause in front of the shiny fluttering ribbons. Who could pass by that delightful, mesmerizing eyeful? It looks like the first place winner get an etched goblet -- oooh, I'd LOVE one of those! Also on display is an example of the neck ribbon go to the year end award winner.

It's as if someone has flipped a switch. I'm no longer Stacey Kimmel, I'm the Grinch in boots and breeches. Covetous, greedy thoughts elbow their way into my brain. I rub my chin, gazing upon the spectrum of colors at the award table, and my eyes narrow.

I want a ribbon. A blue one.

My mind's eye picture Harv and I marching triumphantly into the Whoville with a bag full of blues and the goblet. Wouldn't our doubters (and I know who they are) feel like losers?

The scheming begins
I grab a list of ride times and start looking at the other competitors.
  • Hmmm, lots of riders here today. Dammit.
  • Cindy Lou Who, she's a nice rider. Maybe she'll scratch.
  • Ah, another thoroughbred. I think Harv and I have outscored them before.
  • What are Lendon Gray's students doing here????
  • That YR with the kickass dutch warmblood is in my class. How annoying.
Squelching the inner Grinch
I head back to the barn where Harv is waiting in a temporary stall. With each step, the conviction that I must have those ribbons begins to waver. Harv is peering out of the chain link, looking every bit like a prisoner. He hates shows. His sweet, anxious face brings me back to reality. A flake of hay seems to calm him, and I start going over my test -- not just the movements but the Jane Savoie perfect practice which includes half-halts, aids, anticipating Harv's evasions, etc. I forget about the ribbons.

In the end...
A few times we have made it home with some good scores and some blues. But usually there are no surprises, and progress in our work is slow. Another rider (Kevin are you reading this?) once told me to hold on to the good show memories b/c they're the punctuation marks in a long story of toil. It's so true!

*From the Grinch song (the original 1966 movie)


  1. Love both posts! Sooo true. One thing I miss about hunter/jumper land is the plethora of ribbons. Now I event and the competition is stiff not to mention it is so much work to vie for a single ribbon.

  2. Great post. I didn't show at all last year for the first time in over 40 years. To tell the truth, I didn't miss it. I might not even show this year.

    But, after all those years, I can completely relate to your post. All too true.

    Glad you had a good time in the process. That's what it's ultimately all about.

  3. So glad you remembered to have fun. That's the point, right? Or is it? I keep getting confused....

  4. Sounds a lot like me at the show. I'm outwardly a gracious sportsman, which isn't an act either. I'm having fun and meeting people. But I'm also secretly competitive. I want to kick-@$$ and have fun doing it. Having the horse adds an unpredictable variable to the equation.

  5. Great posts Stacey! I simply cannot wait to get Jackson to the point where I can show him. Not for the ribbons (tho' that would be nice) but just to say, WE DID IT! From where we started to where we will hopefully end up will be the ribbon in and of itself! Hell, I'll make myself my own ribbon!!!! Dressage lesson today, YAY!!! Got the pen, note pad and magnet---FABULOUS and thank you! Anything with a beautiful horse on it will be revered....
    Thanks again!!!!!

  6. I can totally relate to the inner grinsh when it comes to showing. I think it might be a subtle struggle that all riders have at some point. Great post, you had me laughing out loud in some parts.


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