So much for one post per week – sorry guys. Winter is boring.
I didn’t realize that 2014 marked ten years since Flambards and I won our junior dressage championship in South Africa. I feel so old. I never had a ton of showing highlights, but that was definitely one of them. Our wins qualified us to represent our region at a national-level competition – we couldn’t go because our yard had to go into quarantine the week before, but qualifying was a big enough deal for me. I still have the saddle pad and browband in our regional colors and actually still compete in them occasionally…
I was 14 years old and had owned Flambards, my first horse, for about a year. Flambards was one of the coolest horses I’ve known (which doesn’t mean a lot coming from me because I love all horses, but he was genuinely a really great animal). He was a 16.2-hand chestnut Thoroughbred gelding with a star and hind socks. To this day, that remains my favorite height-color-breed-gender-markings combination on a horse. Flambards picked up the pieces of my screwed up riding confidence and put them back together by having the kindest, most forgiving nature. When I panicked, he’d roll his eyes and take care of me. When I got too big-headed or complacent in my riding, he knew exactly how to put me back in my place without scaring me.
I’d stopped jumping competitively at the time of this show; it scared me too much and I was happier focusing on dressage. Of course, my teenage friends all thought that this was totally stupid and couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t want to jump (yes, I was the chicken of my friend group). It wasn’t until this show that I realized that dressage made me happy, and I enjoyed doing it, and I was fairly good at it, so forget what everyone else thought.
I know showing isn’t the be-all and end-all of riding. I like to think I would’ve gotten my confidence back eventually without the help of some extrinsic motivation and competitive success. But it honestly helped a lot – at the time, it made me want to keep riding, even though everyone else told me the stuff I wanted to do was being “boring” and “easy”, or that I was overthinking things.
Ten years later, I realize I’m the only one of my high school barn friends who still rides on a regular basis. I ended up becoming a super confident horseperson through Flambards and, eventually, Domino. It took ten years, but I’m proud to say I’m a very brave rider who trusts herself and her horses. And even though now I event and participate in some of the higher-risk parts of the horse world, I still love my “boring” dressage.
So thank you, Flambards, and thank you, dressage, for helping me stick with the horses.