My anxiety around competition was never really just about competition. It was a fear of the unknown, of lack of control, of new things. It started when I was a small child and if I was anxious about something I would feel sick and nervous. Things like exams, trying new things, bus trips. Over time it got worse and I was anxious before things I was actually looking forward to. The anxiety in turn caused illness as I have a sensitive stomach anyway so it got to the point that I was anxious of being anxious. I missed a lot of things because of it – sleep overs, the first day of pony camp, scouting trips. I was afraid to look forward to anything. My poor mother was tormented by it and had the patience of a saint at times especially when it came to high stress events such as the leaving cert (which I did on three Valium and about seven packs of polo mints a day). I managed miraculously to compete on horses as a teenager and adult. It was hard going – I used to meditate on the way over to try and calm myself down (yeah I was the odd ball), couldn’t eat and would be white as a sheet before a competition and exhausted afterwards.
Hail to the bystanders
Always waiting to say
You shouldn’t be riding
Your horse in that way
Always ready with advice
When you fall to the ground
Although their only riding experience
Is reading horse and hound
In 2013 and 2014, Dolly the big chestnut mare and I focused on and achieved many goals in the show ring. We had not achieved what I hoped we could in dressage and given my passion for dressage this always frustrated me. I had performed well on ponies before but Dolly and I always fell somewhere short of the mark in competition. In a class of seven we were usually fifth or sixth in our advanced intermediate grade and with this consistent mediocrity I was afraid I was becoming one of those people who bang on about ‘potential’ for years without ever delivering any actual!
I want a pair of new shoes but I spent all my money on ones for my horse.
The horse now has three shoes, one bare hoof and a smug expression.
I can’t get a fly veil in the right shade to match my saddle pad.
“That fence is WAY over max height” – using the incredibly accurate measuring scale of ‘my own leg’ this fence is bordering on being a little on the big side.
“I’m not competitive” – I’d eat you for a rosette
“I’m REALLY not competitive” – you and the horse