Chapter Twenty Three – Ringside Judges

Even the most experienced and confident riders have moments of doubt. Have I done enough? Have I trained hard enough? Have I pushed myself far enough?

Very often the best way to quieten the voices of doubt, is to get out there and see how you compare to your competitors, hopefully proving to yourself that you can do it, and ultimately making you believe in yourself a bit more. Sounds simple, but unfortunately the reality isn’t that straightforward and in showing, in the horsey world and in life in general, when you get out and give it a go, there will always be someone waiting to give their opinion on what you ‘should’ have done. The ringside judges that have a full critique of how you ride, implying that they could have done a whole lot better themselves. I don’t mean constructive criticism, let’s face it if you can’t take that then none of us would get passed rising trot. I’m talking about those people that really can’t seem to find a positive thing to say as they view from the sidelines at everyone else giving it their best shot inside the ring.  I recently heard that someone at Balmoral Show said I wasn’t capable of riding Thoroughbreds. Since I have dedicated most of my riding career to doing just that, the comment did leave me feeling a bit deflated. Why with all the positive comments I have had since I started working Tag, does one negative statement stay in my head that little bit longer, and start to stink the longer it lingers. But I’m a big girl and I can safely say I’ve had far worse.

Having the confidence to ride through negativity is one life skill I hope I can pass on to my children, but different personalities mean that some find this harder to do than others. I am a ‘happy’ person, I generally don’t dwell on things and am a glass half-full type of person – or maybe I’m just a bit shallow! But no matter what I am like, I know my daughter is a lot deeper than me, so she often makes me worry as she struggles to digest every piece of advice and guidance she is given. Last weekend at Armagh Show,  as a 10 year old, she rode in a class for 12-17 year olds, (simply because the pony was too big for the younger class). When the judge lined them up she was sitting third, but after their ride-out there was a bit of shuffling and Megan found herself at the bottom of the line. As she pushed herself back into her allotted third place in time for the presentation of the rosettes, I realised that she is far more confident than I think. So I know she will be fine.

Every time she goes to a show she pushes herself that little bit more, and two years ago at the same show she struggled to hold her nerve in a lead rein class, whereas this year, doing her individual show (which was very impressive, of course) she looked the picture of confidence and happiness. It is not easy to hear a child being self-deprecating, but the pressure of watching their friends go faster, jump higher, win more, can get to them. There’s nothing worse than hearing a child say that they did rubbish, or that they’re no good, and some times no matter what you say, you won’t convince them otherwise. Ponies teach children so many things, and dealing with bad results and bad days can be a hard lesson for them to take, but one that will set them up for many of life’s challenges. The judge at the show was hugely encouraging and made the children all feel relaxed, which made it a pleasure to watch. I sincerely hope that every judge and instructor of children thinks before they speak, as no matter how confident the child may appear, negative comments undoubtedly leave their mark.

I feel privileged to be able to give an ex-racer another chance, while having a bit of fun at the same time. A horse that would have been valued at a five figure sum of money, ended up his racing career worthless in the sport he was bred for. We’ve had some great wins along the way and our fair share of ups and downs, but surely that is what it’s all about? Not that someone thinks they can do a better job than me. Maybe they can and maybe they will. But not with my horse. Tag has a great life and whether he fulfills (what someone perceives as) his potential, or not, is irrelevant. He makes a 40-something silly woman just a wee bit crazier and a whole lot happier.

#clearoffnegativity #ifyouhavenothingnicetosay #dontsayanythingatall #youneedtowalkamileinsomeoneelsesshoes #mydaughterisnopushover #thankgoodness

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