Why do you compete?

Michen

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My dressage instructor asked me this during my (once a month, tick box exercise) lesson last night. He made the fair point that if I wasn’t as committed or interested in overly improving the dressage to chase rosettes, why spend any money on dressage lessons and not just use it for jumping instead.

I actually couldn’t answer him, I’m not competitive yet I can’t deny that a rosette is nice to get. I clearly don’t have enough competitive drive to make more effort to improve and therefore climb up the placing or take it more seriously. Yet I’m constantly pushing myself to do more, entering 90s when I could stick at 80 and have a much more relaxing day nerves wise... I’m not even sure why. Achievement at that extra 10cms?

I suppose in my head I think Badminton grassroots is the end goal for any rider at my level, and I don’t believe I’d ever have the dressage to get there however much work I put into it, so I almost have a “what’s the point” attitude. For me the highlight of the day is that post XC elation, a nice photo and a fun day out with friends. Equally I have just as much fun out hunting with the same outcome. I’m not even sure why I’m still having Bog do the odd comp at a higher level, originally it was to get him super established so that he could help me out at the level below. But he’s already there, he doesn’t need to be going around 100’s to help me out at 90, yet I get loads of pleasure from watching him grow and improve with another rider. Maybe there’s a secret ambition to one day do one myself that I’ve not yet acknowledged!

So why do you guys actually compete? Chasing qualifiers? What’s the end goal?
 
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milliepops

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It's an interesting question :)

For me it has multiple factors, of varying importance. Partly I just enjoy being able to go out and about with my horses. I do chase qualifications because the championship shows are fun to take part in and it's nice to have a little daydream about doing well ;)

having shows in the calendar gives context to my training. Something to aim at, a point to draw a line in the sand and see how we perform under pressure. That keeps my motivation high all year round. I appreciate the feedback/results to try and "objectively" assess our progress, compared to riding at home or in lessons - e.g. you get one go at a left canter piri at a show but at home i might ride 3 or 4.

there's also the psychological bit which definitely applies to me, I am one of those people that needs good results to feel like I'm worthy.. I was the same at school etc and so I feel a bit compelled to compete to prove myself, even though I'm just proving myself to myself really!!:oops: If I didn't have horses I think I'd need to scratch that itch another way. But results at a level where I feel that I'm stretching myself, I personally don't get a lot of satisfaction competing way below our training level.

With Kira, there's also a bit of a defiant attitude, when I first got her someone told me she was just a crappy fat cob and I should get rid of her and I personally see every step up the levels to be a middle finger up at that person :p

End goal... has to be Grand Prix surely, lol!! Definitely an aspiration esp now I have a horse that is starting towards that level of training, bit of a bucket list kind of thing. And then start all over again...

I would say similar answers applied when I was eventing, with the added bonus of peer pressure (horse kept on an eventing yard) and addiction to post-xc adrenalin rush o_O:oops:
 

Ambers Echo

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That's a very good question!

I have always been goal oriented. Unless I am working towards a goal, I get bored. I used to be keen on triathlon and had the ultimate goal of ironman. Once I did an ironman I gave triathlon up because I had achieved what I wanted and just doing another one was not appealing. Same with ultra running. I gave that up completely once I had reached the limit of what I considered realistic.

I can't explain the thrill of achieving something I used to think was impossible. Whether that was my first 10k, my first marathon, my first ultra or whether it was my first 50cm SJ round, first 60cm HT, first BE80 and now my first BE90.

I also like doing reasonably well within whatever level I am at. I am more than happy to start off dead last (good thing as I often am!) but I do want to improve too. Just going running for it's own sake seemed pointless. My riding is like that too. I love it most when I am being stretched and I feel like I am learning/improving. I get bored just riding for 'fun' with no real aim or purpose to a session. Even all the stuff that looks like fun - ground work, cow work, liberty etc - I do because I think it will build our partnership and therefore improve our eventing. I do enjoy it but I would not bother doing it if I did not think it would help my competition goals.

Concrete goals keep me motivated. Achievements keep me energised and excited.

End goal? I honestly have no idea. A few years ago I would have said BE90. But I am not done yet. So I am not prepared to limit where we could get to by stating an end goal. Badminton Grass Roots would be awesome but I am not sure the dressage will ever be there for that? She moves well but my riding is a long way off where it needs to be. But I love dressage and plan to work as hard on that phase as on all the others. I do want to be placed eventually at BE90. DC with a reasonable test is so obviously within Amber's capabilities that one day surely I will ride her well enough to do that with her??!!
 
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For me it gives me me a structure to my training, and I like having the opportunity to push myself and move up the levels. I'm quite competitive in nature and I don't have any other hobby or activity where I could pursue this so I suppose that's why I love competing so much (or used to!).

When I did have my own and was competing regularly I liked aiming for regionals etc, particularly as at that time I didn't have a typical 'dressage horse', so I also partly enjoyed breaking the stigma around horses that aren't warmbloods doing dressage.
 

ihatework

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It’s an interesting question and I think people’s answers evolve over time.

My younger self competed because it was fun and ‘expected’. Nothing more really.

That evolved into competing to be competitive. I wanted to go and do stuff and do it well, not just make up the numbers.

This has over time morphed into the realisation that I’m just not quite good enough (or rich enough to compensate!) to compete to the standard I want. I take no enjoyment from lower level stuff or propping up the leaderboard so I have to all intents and purposes hung up my boots.

Currently I’m getting my competitive fix from owning.

Who knows what I will say in 5 years time?
 

ycbm

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I did the stuff in my avatar purely for the adrenaline fix. I didn't have dressage lessons, I was there for the jumps. Ditto hunting over big hedges. I will compete this year for the socialisation of me and two green horses and the day out for something to do now I am retired. All venues must have a cafe to get me there 😁.
 

Michen

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That's a very good question!

I have always been goal oriented. Unless I am working towards a goal, I get bored. I used to be keen on triathlon and had the ultimate goal of ironman. Once I did an ironman I gave triathlon up because I had achieved what I wanted and just doing another one was not appealing. Same with ultra running. I gave that up completely once I had reached the limit of what I considered realistic.

I can't explain the thrill of achieving something I used to think was impossible. Whether that was my first 10k, my first marathon, my first ultra or whether it was my first 50cm SJ round, first 60cm HT, first BE80 and now my first BE90.

I also like doing reasonably well within whatever level I am at. I am more than happy to start off dead last (good thing as I often am!) but I do want to improve too. Just going running for it's own sake seemed pointless. My riding is like that too. I love it most when I am being stretched and I feel like I am learning/improving. I get bored just riding for 'fun' with no real aim or purpose to a session. Even all the stuff that looks like fun - ground work, cow work, liberty etc - I do because I think it will build our partnership and therefore improve our eventing. I do enjoy it but I would not bother doing it if I did not think it would help my competition goals.

Concrete goals keep me motivated. Achievements keep me energised and excited.

End goal? I honestly have no idea. A few years ago I would have said BE90. But I am not done yet. So I am not prepared to limit where we could get to by stating an end goal. Badminton Grass Roots would be awesome but I am not sure the dressage will ever be there for that? She moves well but my riding is a long way off where it needs to be. But I love dressage and plan to work as hard on that phase as on all the others. I do want to be placed eventually at BE90. DC with a reasonable test is so obviously within Amber's capabilities that one day surely I will ride her well enough to do that with her??!!

I have no doubt you absolutely will! I made a rod for my own back as Boggle placed 7th in his first BE90 with his jockey, so it makes anything I do with him look particularly dreadful. His BE record currently shows an 80 with a million SJ penalties and XC, followed two weeks later by a double clear at BE100... doesn't take a genius to work out why hehe!
 

Michen

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It's an interesting question :)

For me it has multiple factors, of varying importance. Partly I just enjoy being able to go out and about with my horses. I do chase qualifications because the championship shows are fun to take part in and it's nice to have a little daydream about doing well ;)

having shows in the calendar gives context to my training. Something to aim at, a point to draw a line in the sand and see how we perform under pressure. That keeps my motivation high all year round. I appreciate the feedback/results to try and "objectively" assess our progress, compared to riding at home or in lessons - e.g. you get one go at a left canter piri at a show but at home i might ride 3 or 4.

there's also the psychological bit which definitely applies to me, I am one of those people that needs good results to feel like I'm worthy.. I was the same at school etc and so I feel a bit compelled to compete to prove myself, even though I'm just proving myself to myself really!!:oops: If I didn't have horses I think I'd need to scratch that itch another way. But results at a level where I feel that I'm stretching myself, I personally don't get a lot of satisfaction competing way below our training level.

With Kira, there's also a bit of a defiant attitude, when I first got her someone told me she was just a crappy fat cob and I should get rid of her and I personally see every step up the levels to be a middle finger up at that person :p

End goal... has to be Grand Prix surely, lol!! Definitely an aspiration esp now I have a horse that is starting towards that level of training, bit of a bucket list kind of thing. And then start all over again...

I would say similar answers applied when I was eventing, with the added bonus of peer pressure (horse kept on an eventing yard) and addiction to post-xc adrenalin rush o_O:oops:

Ha, my middle finger is to the person who told me I'd be nuts to take Boggle hunting. Then that drag hunting would ruin him. Then that he may be a good drag hunter but he'd never be able to trail hunt as well..switches between the two like a pro ;)

It's oh so satisfying isn't it!!
 

Pinkvboots

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It's an interesting question :)

For me it has multiple factors, of varying importance. Partly I just enjoy being able to go out and about with my horses. I do chase qualifications because the championship shows are fun to take part in and it's nice to have a little daydream about doing well ;)

having shows in the calendar gives context to my training. Something to aim at, a point to draw a line in the sand and see how we perform under pressure. That keeps my motivation high all year round. I appreciate the feedback/results to try and "objectively" assess our progress, compared to riding at home or in lessons - e.g. you get one go at a left canter piri at a show but at home i might ride 3 or 4.

there's also the psychological bit which definitely applies to me, I am one of those people that needs good results to feel like I'm worthy.. I was the same at school etc and so I feel a bit compelled to compete to prove myself, even though I'm just proving myself to myself really!!:oops: If I didn't have horses I think I'd need to scratch that itch another way. But results at a level where I feel that I'm stretching myself, I personally don't get a lot of satisfaction competing way below our training level.

With Kira, there's also a bit of a defiant attitude, when I first got her someone told me she was just a crappy fat cob and I should get rid of her and I personally see every step up the levels to be a middle finger up at that person :p

End goal... has to be Grand Prix surely, lol!! Definitely an aspiration esp now I have a horse that is starting towards that level of training, bit of a bucket list kind of thing. And then start all over again...

I would say similar answers applied when I was eventing, with the added bonus of peer pressure (horse kept on an eventing yard) and addiction to post-xc adrenalin rush o_O:oops:
I can't believe someone said that about Kira that's really horrible, the pair of you have certainly shown them the middle finger and quite rightly so, I hope you enjoy letting them know how successful you are:D
 

mavandkaz

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I was thinking about this the other week, not so much competing but taking the horse out somewhere. I realised that I am addicted to doing something on the weekend with the horse, in the same way others are addicted to buying rugs, or matchy matchy. I have nearly a month of no competitions and I'm going to go mad, so will end up booking onto clinics instead.
I then think that if I am spending so much on training then i may as well go out and compete and put it into practice.
I bought Shambles as a happy hacker, with the thought we may do the odd unaff prelim. Admittedly quite a lot of the original drive to compete came from dressage instructor as he instantly filled me with a sense that we could achieve something. I am now at a point where I have my own aims, and going out to the dressage comps gives me something to aim for and a way of monitoring my progress. As you know my dressage is my main focus, which was never the plan. Back in my younger years I was more of show jumper, but am willing to put that on the back burner and just have fun with it. I have now decided to not even entertain the thought of going cc as it is no fun.
So for me I compete to challenge myself, give me something to aim for, and I do want to be competitive (not just make up the numbers) but I am also realistic.
 

hobo

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I have lessons to keep me in check to ride my 19 year old horse correctly so she will last for several more years for my long hacks. I have started low level dressage to complement the lessons and to stave of dementia by learning tests as I am no spring chicken. It has been helped by getting some nice frilly's for my hard work.
 

Alibear

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To test my training and see how we are progressing. I like to improve my riding and I like to improve my horses way of going in general and array of skills/tricks too. Training is what does all this but it can be hard to spot the progress day to day. Also performing under pressure and in short space of time to a set pattern really highlights any strengths and weaknesses and highlights what needs working next.
Plus its awesome to catch up with friends and their horses and encourage each other on too.
 

scats

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I like to have something to work towards and it adds structure to our training. I tend to like buying horses who are relatively cheap/nothing particularly special and then seeing what I can do with them. This gives me an immense amount of satisfaction, so I do like to take them out and show people what we can do (and occasionally make a fool of myself in the process- such is life with horses!)
I also enjoy the day out- there’s usually coffee involved and I absolutely love that time after my test, when I’m waiting for the results, with a coffee in hand and my horse tied up to my wagon. Those moments mean everything to me. The rosette bit is just an added extra.
 

DabDab

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Very good question, and I don't really know. I'm probably not really that bothered about competitions if I'm honest with myself. Having said that, once I get into the competing frame of mind and start going out a lot I become quite addicted - I think I just get into the routine of it and like trying to see how well I can do this week vs last week. The same reason I like playing card games I suppose.

Going out and about (not competing) in general I love. Because it's freedom and adventure and an immense sense of pride that I've trained a beautiful animal to be happy to do this with me. Taking a youngster that doesn't know how to tie up or lead (or won't even let you put a headcollar on), to a horse that you can just chuck on a lorry and go off for an adventure is amazing.
 

JFTD-WS

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I don't know really - I do what I enjoy, but I'm not sure why I enjoy it. I don't take anything too seriously, partly because I always expect to screw up and partly because my main aims are always bringing my horse home safe at the end of the day - I guess I'm not that competitive!
 

EKW

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I show my shetlands because I like to. I like the social aspect an when you have a standard coloured you really do expect to come last more often than not! But it is a nice surprise when you win!

I don't actually know when I am going to get out competing myself this year. I have a lot of other commitments. I have 2 judging appointments so far, I have promised 3 shows I would steward and I have 2 rounds of probationary judging to complete as well this year. So my own may well take a back seat. I actually really enjoy stewarding! Oh and I have my own show to run! #Scary #NeedToGetMyArseInGear #NeedMoreOrganistaion!
 

BunnyDog

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SOOO FUNNY!!! I just posted a thread on Facebook with this exact theme. Now to be fair the basis for my introspection is largely in part due to the very high costs to compete here. Cudo and I did 12 shows and it cost $5587. Of those 12 only 8 were recognized with the USEF. 4 of them were schooling shows. It was a big hit.

So now I am looking at my year ahead with 2 horses and wondering if I would be as happy competing in the pop up 1.20-1.30 classes that do exist at some unrecognized stuff. Ultimately it would probably mean less overall shows but the hope would be to train harder at home and be more successful when we do go out.

As Chad is still aiming a bit lower he actually has a lot more shows to choose from than Cudo does. Once you pass 1.20m you have to head to the bigger AA shows. And that's where the big bills hit.

I said on Fb that I love to challenge myself as a rider, horseman, trainer and ultimately as a person. Can I handle the pressure? Can I come out on top when pushing to do my best? I love the comraderie when it exists, some shows the folks are quite entitled and rude and it makes it less fun. But I do love the challenge of getting better myself.

Em
 

milliepops

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SOOO FUNNY!!! I just posted a thread on Facebook with this exact theme. Now to be fair the basis for my introspection is largely in part due to the very high costs to compete here. Cudo and I did 12 shows and it cost $5587. Of those 12 only 8 were recognized with the USEF. 4 of them were schooling shows. It was a big hit.
😱😱😱😱😱🤯

Blimey. I don't envy you that! I think I'd have to sell up and start knitting instead if I didn't have access to our (relatively!) cheap shows. £25 a class stings badly enough 😳😵
 

McFluff

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Really interesting question, and replies.
I compete because I really enjoy the sense of achievement in taking my horse out and having a fun day together - this is brand new for both of us. I had to wait till I was the wrong side of 40 before I could do this, so I make sure each event is fun.
I really enjoy training, and I like the feeling of progress when a test feels easier to ride and when we can try a harder one. I want my horse to be a joy to ride, light, responsive and balanced, and I am starting to feel that progress.
My approach is very much focused on competing against myself, i like getting feedback from a trained person who doesn’t know us. I set mini goals, such As get less comments about needing to show more suppleness. ‘Winning’ is an added bonus, frillies are nice. But I’ve been more proud of a low placed novice (where the comments showed progress on our goals) than on a winning prelim, where I knew I could’ve done better.
 

Britestar

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I do it for fun. Years ago I did all the qualifiers and went to championships, and enjoyed it.

Now I do what I want. Yes, I do chase one particular qualifier each year, for one particular championship, but other than that I don't bother. Partly as pony 1 is 22 now, and partly as other horse is not the sort who can go out and compete.

I have had to rethink my approach to competing with him so goals are turned upsides down.

If I want to go somewhere I do, but if I miss something I'm not really bothered.
 

criso

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When it comes to jumping what I do at a competition is not what I would do at home. Jumping a full course with fillers and (hopefully) a jump off is a different experience and not one I could easily replicate either in terms of facilities or mindset. I find I ride differently as well, it's to do with knowing you only have one chance, at home I know I can come round again and try and do better but that can make me less committed the first time round.

Dressage I used to regard as torture but am just in middle age getting to the point that I quite enjoy it despite having a throughtwat x giraffe who is terrified of judges' cars, white boards, dressage markers and on one memorable occasion recently a patch of sunlight coming in the door.

I've nearly always ended up with youngsters too and agree there is that sense of achievement especially current horse who is the most challenging I've had.
 

mule

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I've had the opposite experience. The horse wasn't well for much of last year so I didn't compete at all and I didn't miss it.
I did a couple of dressage competitions at the start of the year and just didn't enjoy them.

When I compete I turn in to an ultra competitive ball of stress and anxiety. My perfectionism becomes over the top.
I realised that it's just not fun for me or the horse.

I have lessons because I love learning. I've realised training is what I really enjoy. I'll probably compete again in the future, but I'll need to work on whatever it is that turns me from jekyll to hyde.
 
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just love going out and doing something. I have always been lucky to have talented horses but we go out a do a variety of different things. many, many years ago my mum said I could take my ponies out hunting or go competing. going competing won hands down. I still love the excitement of going out and competing
 

ycbm

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They kill you on Nomination fees and office fees. The classes aren't awful as you can see.

Em

Emily, is there an equivalent to our unaffiliated shows, where you can turn up on the day, and jump any height up to a metre ten for ten pounds a round?
 

Chippers1

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I compete because I enjoy it (most of the time!) going into the competition a bag of nerves and coming out feeling elated that you've done it is such a rush for me. Unfortunately for me i'm also horrendously competitive and also feel like I constantly have to prove that I am good enough which when we don't have a good round I can really beat myself up about it but i'm learning that that is just horses for you.

I much prefer competitions to lessons (even though I need them!) and I've always in the back of my mind had a goal to do a BE80, I don't even want to place or go clear - just not get eliminated! Who knows what will happen when I do it. Maybe aim for getting placed? who knows. Like most things in my life i'll probably just wing it and see how it goes!
 

palo1

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It is really interesting to read everyone's replies. I used to compete (a bit) to try to prove that both my horse, who was very difficult, and I were part of a scene that I very much wanted to join! It was hard work, frustrating and at times hugely rewarding to have 'proof' in the form of a result/rosette/placing etc that we were making progress and being part of the game. My next horse found everything quite easy and has rarely given me a day's trouble - consequently, although at a low level, every time I took him out we did well enough for me to feel validated in my riding and training and the whole competing thing lost it's allure!! Also, I did start to question much of the received wisdom about training, riding and horsemanship and started to look in lots of different directions for information and inspiration. I have travelled a bit and kept my eyes and ears open in relation to horse cultures, training, management, ideas about horsemanship etc and that has led me to feel that 'competing' in any of the mainstream disciplines in the UK and Europe is a bit of a box that you either have to be in or not at all! So, on the whole I don't bother now. I am not always convinced that dressage, jumping etc ideals in our culture really have the horse's best long term interests at heart as they are so focussed on a specific 'result' though there are lots of fantastic, empathic and disciplined trainers out there. I hugely admire many riders and their achievements and enjoy watching some competitive horse sports (love watching top level eventing and dressage though show jumping has never done much for me) but I don't think it is interesting enough for me to want to join in with any more! :) You never know how your own horsemanship may develop though so never say never!!
 
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