“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity” is one of my favourite phrases. So often in competition, especially when things go wrong, we talk about what you can buy – the best horse with the most potential, the expensive clothing, the sessions with the best coach / instructor / sports psychologist. However it is the existence of luck that levels any playing field. You cannot buy it, sell it, create it, harness it or control it. Luck can be at your back propelling you to victory or pushing against you to defeat. Luck will defy all odds and laugh in the face of assumption. Luck is the unlucky pole down that your horse barely touched, it is the lost button, the bad weather or the little spook or buck that the showing judge was looking away for.
Preparation is another story. While we cannot buy or sell luck we can influence it. Benjamin Franklin once said “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. So many things declared as bad luck are in fact often just bad preparation from the leather that broke because it was not checked and oiled to the horse that bucked because its work load was too light to the dressage marks lost because the movement was not practiced. We cannot plan for luck but we can plan to prepare and in doing so we can plan to win.
Winning does not truly take place in any show grounds nor does it take place that morning or the night before. The potential to succeed grows in the months and weeks before a show or a challenge. It grows in the days where the rain is in your face and the wind is on your back but you hold your head high and push through the water dripping down your neck and the cold biting your skin. It grows in the days where you hit a mental or physical wall and want to give up because it is hard but you keep going. It grows in repetition and in patience. It grows in the early mornings and late evenings spent working every muscle towards a goal. It grows in the 5am starts where you are sleep deprived and heading to the yard while others are heading to bed. It grows every time you have to sacrifice a night out, a luxury or your time to invest in where you want to go.
However there will be days when you go out on the best horse with the best turnout having planned, prepared and perfected and it will all still go wrong. There will be days where the unprepared and ungracious will triumph over the hard working. There are days where nothing will go your way from the unexpected traffic to the bad weather to the judge who did not like your horse. This only goes to remind us that no matter how much preparation you do you must still hope for the day of opportunity when a bit of luck comes your way. Those days when they come will be worth every bead of sweat, every bad day and every minute of training.
Last Friday I didn’t expect the Saturday that followed. I left work after a busy stressful week and hoped to do a quick training session in the paddock at dressage before heading home to pack up for a 5am start. The horse had other ideas. Taking an aversion to the letter P in the long arena she decided to show case her show gallop at every opportunity, haring out of the arena, jumping out of the arena and at one point trying to kill P altogether. It took about an hour and a half to half win that battle and I went home disheartened which was not helped by my jeep failing to start at 5.30am the next morning which led me to ringing a friend in a panic to rescue me.
That morning was the dawn of the best day showing I have ever had on a horse. The mare won the lightweights, she scored 71% and placed 4th in dressage despite a mistake on my part, she defended and won the side saddle and the mares championship and took reserve supreme. Everything she turned her hoof to that day turned to gold. There will be few days like that one and those days are what I live for. That day served as a reminder to me that our fate on Saturday would not be determined by what we did on Friday or what happened Saturday morning. It would be determined by what the horse and I did and worked at in the six months beforehand and one bad evening won’t erase all that. Most of all it reminded me that if you can do all the work, all the preparation and all the planning all you can do next is give it your all and hope that a little bit of luck will be with you.
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