n this series, I’ve been digging deeper into the best ways to strategize our rides. When should we chase the clear - but maybe not so pretty - round, and when should we be aiming for a technically perfect trip? In the previous installment of this series, I explored the competitive mindset - knowing when it's time to throw 'perfection' to the wind and ride to win.
Now, I’m diving deeper into the art of riding the ‘perfect’ round, and why ultimately, it's not about perfection at all. Obviously, we are always aiming to ride as well as possible, even in a fast jump off, but there is an important difference between riding to be competitive and riding to improve ourselves and our horses. Let’s explore the ups and downs of chasing perfection, as well as how to truly set yourself up for success.
The fundamental aim of showjumping
In my opinion, the most important goal for any rider is to become one with the horse and to work on becoming the best possible rider you can be. For that, we need to train ourselves and our horses to communicate and execute as a team. Perhaps the most important, and at the same time, the most difficult, element to riding in the showjumping arena is mastering that effortless, smooth round. However, that beautiful round where horse and rider become one, where every obstacle is taken effortlessly and where the same rhythm flows from start to finish, comes down to great attention to detail and extensive practice. Training and aiming for this harmony is what makes us better riders and should always be our goal.
The downside of 'perfect'
You might have heard me say before that perfection is not a realistic goal. Although there might be moments where you will get close to perfection or even feel like you’ve nailed it, there will be plenty of rides when things don’t go exactly as planned. That's just the nature of horse sport. The downside of chasing the 'perfect' ride is that we become obsessed with perfection and cannot be satisfied or happy until we feel that we have it. This can create a huge amount of pressure for you and your four-legged teammate and ultimately result in frustration. The key is to always work on improvement. Every time you step up a level and get out of your comfort zone, you will make mistakes. Being able to embrace those mistakes so you can become a better rider and letting go of the results are the key ingredients to long-term growth and the patient journey to perfection. I think this great quote by Deepak Chopra explains it perfectly: “The more detached you are from the results, the better the results become. By the same measure, the more desperate and uptight you are about the results, the more likely that you will be disappointed.”
How to improve, consistently.
Step 1. Know your desired outcome. When you know exactly how you eventually want to ride, and how you want your horse to jump, you have a clear goal to work towards.
Step 2. Create small steps. Segment what you need to learn or what your horse needs, and work on improving that specific element until it has become so easy you don’t need to think about it anymore. As Daniel Deusser puts it: “In order to improve and stay consistent in your results, your ‘system’ or the way you train your horses is crucial. Focus on understanding the horse and creating that willingness to train with you. If you just focus on that and having a clear idea of what you want the horse to learn, you will get results over time and stay consistent in your performance.”
Step 3. When you feel you and your horse are ready, move up a level. Know that, in the beginning, change is often a little chaotic. Be OK with you and your horse making mistakes. This is part of the learning process!
Step 4. Keep repeating this process until you reach your goal. When you get down and need that extra boost of confidence and inspiration that let you know you are on the right track, just remember Winston Churchill’s famous words: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
Photos by Thomas Reiner.