By Lorri Quiett
CPHA Foundation Medal Finals 2009: The Journey, not the Destination
So post-event as I was once again contemplating (okay, obsessing) about my less-than-stellar performance in the CPHA Foundation Medal Finals, I decided to pull the book of quotes off my “self help” shelf. I wanted to see what struck me.
“You are exactly where you should be; your challenges are what they should be; your rewards are what they should be; and the best is yet to come.”
“Life is much too important to be taken seriously.”
– Oscar Wilde
The two quotes above were the first I read. My “challenges are what they should be.” Interesting. “The best is yet to come.” Okay, that would be good to focus on instead of the fact that I seem to make the same mistakes over and over again. Don’t “take life too seriously.” Yes, that would be nice, too. Not really my MO though. I am a pretty serious, try to control everything around me type of person, which is great for organizing complex projects; not so great for flowing around a course.
And then I read this one: “It’s about the journey, not the destination.” Peaceful words to live by, but I keep waiting to get there. To arrive at that apparently elusive place that if I just was a good enough rider I would reach. As if somehow you practice and practice then finally, you arrive and there you stay. The skill level I’ve always wanted. The perfect position. To stop pulling and legging at the same time, or clamping my arms to my side when I am nervous. Placing in all the Medal Finals would be nice. That’s my destination.
As long as I can remember in my riding career, my greatest desire has been to be competitive in the equitation ring. Growing up, that was not in the cards. Now as an adult, I have been placing my focus there again, the goal being to ride well, to be competitive and place in the plethora of 3’3” Medal Finals we are lucky enough to have here on the West Coast
After an 18 year break from riding, getting back into the saddle and jumping as an adult is very different from when I was a kid. I have a fabulous equitation horse, Legend, who always takes care of me. Even with a death grip on his face, if I halfway steer to it, he will jump it. I have two fabulous trainers, Carolyn Biava and Janet McDonald. I am lucky enough to be tall and long-legged. All sounds good, right?
I moved up to 3’3” two and a half years ago, and I have injured myself each show year, rendering me unable to compete in more than one Final due to the timing of my rehab. The first year was a dislocated shoulder from rollerblading; last year it was a broken collarbone from a jumping fall at home. So you can see HOW important it is that I do well this year. And, of course, a Medal Final, with all the pressure, can bring right back to the surface those faults you’ve diligently worked on.
And so apparently I fell right into the trap of – this is what I’ve been preparing for ALL year and I really want to do well. So Day One at the first Medal Final of the year for me, and my first thought looking at the course is that the jumps look big. Breathe. I mention this to one of my fellow competitors, a far more experienced medal final rider, and she says they look small! Okay, maybe I am over-reacting (no surprise there). The course does look like fun. The course walk changed my mind again. Not only are the jumps substantial but the course challenging with lots of options and riding questions.
I was third to go in the ring, and the first two girls did a different track and striding than what my trainer and I talked about. I mention this and was told not to worry (fat chance), to keep to the plan. Breathe. My starting pace is good, great first jump. Then I look late to the second jump on a slight bend. Legend jumps in the six strides we wanted, but is a bit long and he doesn’t know where we are going. Then it happens. Lost the flow. I worry at jump three, stop riding and start throwing my body at him instead. Jump four, same thing. Mistake at jump four that bends to the combination at five means more mistakes. It gets better after that, but needless to say I am not happy with my ride. My warm up was good. My lessons at home have been good. Why can’t I do this better? I KNOW better. I watched the rest of rounds. So much to admire, so many good riders. The winner of both rounds and the Final, Karrie Rufer, made it look easy. She was so smooth and beautiful going over the jumps. She’s at the destination. Did I miss the bus?
Day Two brings another challenging course. In my warm-up we work on not losing pace around the corner. Carolyn would say, “Did you feel that? You just lost pace,” and I’m thinking, “Well, no, not really.” I was thinking, “There is a jump there and I HAVE TO FIND THE PERFECT SPOT! Wait, I am supposed to forget about the spot. It is rhythm and feel, keep the pace, wait with leg. Wait?!? I HAVE TO SEE THE SPOT!!”
This time I go at the end of the order, as we are in reverse from yesterday. I have a chance to watch a lot of people go. I see something with each ride that I respect. That’s reassuring. I begin my course with a great pace. Turn the corner. Lose the pace. Panic. By the third jump, I think “LET GO” and finally give Legend a chance to go forward.
The next line is a trot jump flowing up in eight in a bending line to an oxer then left to a snake fence in five or six. Most of the experienced riders do eight to five. My plan was to do eight to six, but I have the horse, so I change my mind at the last minute to do the five. I overshoot the turn and end up in five and a half. Then two jumps across the middle in a serpentine, with one inside turn. Those jumps are fine, one deep, but it is an improvement. Then a line – and a fun one, too – a forward two to a normal three to a short one. I ride that fine. Then another line in a forward five, which also rides smoothly. I CAN do this! We are required to hand gallop to the final fence. Our pace is good as we head to the jump and I SEE THE SPOT. Even though our hand gallop slowed a bit, we still jump it reasonably well. Trainer is happier. I am happier. Earned a tenth place in the round. Not bad.
So not stellar, but marked improvement from day one to day two. I decide that I will continue to try and embrace the journey, while not take it too seriously. My challenges continue and with luck I will be competing for many years, including this one. After all, the best is always yet to come and that elusive place awaits my arrival.
Thank you Lorri and good luck on the journey!