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Enjoy showing, dislike schooling

From: Kylie

Dear Jessica, I hope you'll be able to help me think through this problem. I have always wanted a horse, and got one a year ago. I took two years of lessons first, and enjoyed them a lot, and really had a ball at the barn shows. I was so proud when I "graduated" to going to local shows at other barns! My horse is very sweet and I'm fond of him but I can't say that he is the love of my life (that would be my Golden Retriever, Max, and my boyfriend, Caleb, in that order, LOL!).

Here's the thing. The more I ride, the more I wonder if maybe getting my own horse wasn't such a great idea. I still love going to shows, and I go to as many as I can, starting with the first one in the spring through the last one I can find that's local enough to get to, in the fall. Showing is just the most fun ever! But I really don't like practicing or schooling or whatever you want to call it. I have a hard time making myself go out to the barn and ride when there are no shows to go to, and around here, that is like half of the year. I think that schooling is one of the most boring things ever invented. I don't really need to school anyway, my horse is very well trained and knows exactly what to do at the shows, so he doesn't need practice in between except for a week or two before the first show as a reminder. All of the barn chores and tack cleaning and schooling is stuff that I would really like to get out of. It just isn't fun for me.

I feel like there is something wrong with me because everybody else at my boarding barn loves their horses soooooooo much and they all seem to think that tack cleaning, stall cleaning and schooling are just as good as showing or maybe even better. Some of them don't even show, they just do this other stuff all year round. I wouldn't have a horse if I couldn't go to shows. I do all the other things because I know better than to neglect my horse, but these other people really enjoy that work and I just don't! Please don't suggest some other style of riding because I've ridden English and Western AND SaddleSeat and it's all the same, I love going to shows and I'm just not interested in the rest of the stuff. I'm about to work out a deal with another boarder who wants a second horse to ride this winter and will do all of the stall and tack cleaning for me, but I don't see this as a long term solution to my problem.

I'm not exactly sure what I want you to tell me, I guess I would like to know if there IS something wrong with me and if I can change or if I should start looking to sell my horse. I'm beginning to get really frustrated just thinking about winter coming. My last show this year will be in two weeks, and after that, there's nothing until next April. I don't know why I like showing so much, I think it's because I like the competition and the feeling that I'm trying to beat the other riders. But I know there's nothing like that feeling when I am schooling, it's just boring boring BORING. When I was little, all I could think about was owning my own horse, but now I know that I really only like the showing, not the rest of it. Maybe there is something wrong with me, or maybe some people shouldn't own horses. Please can you help me?


Hi Kylie! You're not the only person in the world who feels this way, but you ARE one of the rare, honest ones who will come right out and say what they're feeling. I don't think that there is anything wrong with you - but I don't think that you're a horse person, and I think you would probably be much happier participating in some other activity that would allow you to compete more.

As long as you have horse, you DO have a problem. Owning a riding horse usually involves a lot of grooming, stall-cleaning, tack-cleaning, and, yes, schooling. In fact, most of your riding is likely to be schooling. If you're an ordinary horse-owner who keeps her horse at an ordinary boarding stable, probably somewhere between 90% and 99% of your riding is going to be schooling, not showing.

In your case, you might do better to try to find someone to lease your horse, with the understanding that you will take the horse to a certain number of shows during certain months of the year, and that during those months, the lease will become a part-lease, because you'll be riding your horse at least one or two days a week. Since there are many riders who love schooling and have no interest in showing, it's very possible that you could find one of those riders and work out such an arrangement. Alternatively, you might sell your own horse and look for opportunities to show other people's horses - but that's a less likely scenario. People If you can afford to keep your horse with a show trainer in your area, and see the horse ONLY at shows, that would probably suit you best, but keeping a horse with a trainer is generally quite expensive. If the trainer has a lesson program and could use your horse as a lesson horse, that might make the arrangement more affordable - but again, it's a less likely scenario.

On a more cosmic scale, here's something to consider. Whether you're a rider, an artist, a musician, or just about anything else, PERFORMANCE is never going to represent the biggest part of what you do. Most people who perform or compete are performing or competing just a fraction of the time - possibly as little as 1% of the time. That leaves 99% of your time to deal with OTHER aspects of the activity - and most of that time will be taken up by PRACTICE (or, in the case of a rider, schooling). If you love performing and love practicing, hurrah for you, you're on the right path. If you love practicing and loathe performing, then you may be missing some of the fun, but you're probably still on the right path. But if you don't enjoy the practicing (schooling, stall-cleaning, tack-cleaning, grooming, etc.), and enjoy ONLY the performing/competing, then you are on the wrong path, and staying on that path is simply setting yourself up to fail. Performance is like the top 1/8 of the iceberg - that's the visible part, but it's based on the 7/8 that you DON'T see. Consider the Spanish Riding School, which exists to perform: Spectators can watch and enjoy a performance, but don't see the hours and years of schooling and practice that underlie each of those lovely performances.

It doesn't make sense to take up any vocation or avocation that is enjoyable only 1% (or, for that matter, 10% or 15%) of the time. It doesn't make sense to stay with any activity that you truly find to be annoying, boring, and unenjoyable 85% or 90% or 99% of the time.

Riding might still work out for you IF you can change the way you think about schooling, and see it not as a waste of time, but as a competitive activity in which you strive to outdo yourself, or in which you attempt, every day, to achieve a "personal best" in terms of your communication with your horse, the development of your horse, your horse's training, and your own riding skills.

If it just isn't possible for you to enjoy any part of horse ownership EXCEPT for competitions, then what you need to do, I believe, is to find yourself another activity - one in which you enjoy the practice as much as you do the performance. It sounds to me as though what you enjoy most is competition itself, not necessarily competition involving a horse. I hope that you can find a good home for your horse and a more enjoyable activity for yourself - good luck!


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