You don’t have to be Rich but you Better Bring Your A Game

I have written about this before and would like to dedicate this article specifically to the four traits I see in top equitation riders. If you look at the past big eq winners time and time again they have these four things in common. There may be exceptions, however,  I cannot think of any off the top of my head. (If you notice, talent is great but not on the top of my list.)

Here they are:

  • Aside from equitation, they also ride jumpers and sometimes  hunters as well.
  • They are a trainer’s child, wealthy, or a working student for a top trainer
  • They have amazing work ethic
  • Mental Strength – They think gold

Let’s look back at our winners… They have many of the above points in common. Now some of you are still thinking, what about talent? The winners are all talented riders. More often than not, practice develops talent making us come back to work ethic.

First look at the fact that top equitation riders also ride upper level jumpers. I know from personal experience, Hunter won her first grand prix long before she even thought about becoming a top equitation rider. Equitation success became another goal for her to add to her riding career but it did not start as a focus when she was little. The experience in the jumper ring gave her the mileage long before she ever competed in an equitation class. Jumper classes gave her the ability to  navigate the bending lines, forward lines, collected lines, courses that are more demanding than your usual hunter or equitation course during the normal show circuit. 

Hunter competing in a Grand Prix in Ocala in 2011.

How can we make a change, as many parents cannot afford two horses for their children to show? Courses with more challenging questions from early on could help this. The derby aspect should trickle down into the hunter divisions. Equitation courses should have more thought and detail put into them (not just a junior hunter course with a roll back or two). WE need to prepare riders so riders can be ready for equitation finals. Trainers need to get off their butts at home and set courses to make their riders ready for finals.  Hunter and I are always moving jumps in our ring at home. The course winning, would never be an option for us. Maybe horse shows should put the actual course from the previous years Equitation finals into play. For example, one week at the end of winter circuit, they should have the Maclay finals course or Hunt seat Medals final course as the course in the regular class at any of the winter circuits. How well the rider does will be a good jumping off point on what they need to work on the rest of the year to prepare for finals. 

The next criteria is really that one of the next three must apply; the big eq winners have either been a working student for a top eq trainer, a child of a trainer, or wealthy. Why is this so?

If they are a working student it goes with the last point on the list, work ethic. They have the hardest job I can think of . They work, work, and work some more. A twenty hour day is nothing for them. They are in their trainer’s eye all the time. It is important for the working student to be successful as it is  reflection back on them. Not only does a good working student collect ribbons for their barn, their success attracts clients. Working students’ skilled  rides sell horses making their trainer money. Not only do they become good riders, but they become good barn managers.  A good junior working student is priceless to a trainer, and a good trainer is priceless to working student. The training and education they gain is a equal to beyond a phd in school. They walk away at 18 with a phd in horsemanship and hopefully some nice accomplishments in the show ring.

If the rider is a trainer’s child. They might not be rich, but they are steered in a path for success. I knew what mistakes I had made as a junior, so I had such a clear understanding what needed to be done for Hunter to be more successful. Trainer’s have the knowledge to pull the correct team together for their child. They have the experience and connections to acquire the proper horses for their child to be safe and become educated. These kids also get to ride all day long non-stop. Supply of horses is in abundance in a trainer’s barn and there are things to learn from the good horses and the not so easy horses. The hours they log, just like a working student is priceless.

The only way I have seen riders get around being a trainer’s child or a working student is money and lots of it. Money will buy the best horses, multiple horses, buy the best trainers, and give them the ability to get to horse shows across the country. This is not a negative, just a point I am making. And these kids have to work hard too. Extremely hard. It doesn’t matter how great your horses are if you don’t ride them well. That requires logging the hours and more hours, just like all the other riders.  Money gives them the ability to ride multiple horses without being a working student, it DOES NOT give them a get out of jail free card. They still must put the hours in.

The last one is mental strength. This is huge. You cannot have gold, without thinking gold. The winners think gold. Even when they say they aren’t, they really are. Take the National Championship football game the other day. 

TAMPA, Fla. — The game clock showed 2:01. Deshaun Watson gathered his teammates and told them simply, “We’re going to get this touchdown. We’re going to win this national championship.”

Nobody on that sideline doubted. Not with Watson under center. Everybody wearing orange and purple firmly believed they had the best player in the country on their side, Heisman or no Heisman. They reminded everybody: Heismans are voted on; championships are won. – Andrea Adelson

Watson thinks gold. And that is what the top Equitation riders do. After Hunter’s 2nd place finish at Maclay finals a couple years ago MacLain Ward told Hunter, “Second place worked out pretty well for me Hunter.”  What a perfect statement, but Hunter didn’t want to hear  it. Her mind was set for the win no matter what. When Hunter’s Equitation horse Sunny ran a temperature the show day of Maclay finals this year that was when “the rubber meets the road.” She took a vertualy unknown that had not shown in an indoor ring in 3 years and won. It is what you do when odds are stacked against you and the pressure is on that shows what you are made of. Will you run with the ball or will you drop it? 

As Mahamud Ali said, “Champions are not made in the gym, they are made deep inside.”


One thought on “You don’t have to be Rich but you Better Bring Your A Game”

  1. Totally agree with all you are saying. Having been a mother of a good rider who was neither the child of a trainer, a working student because she was in a traditional school in a part of the country where equitation is not emphasized, and was certainly not a child from the lavish means that some have, it was hard! Other attributes I believe develop too the more you do something. Mental toughness is developed and not just inherent. Take the child who from the age of 13 has been to Maclay finals 3 times already before they reach age 16. Mental toughness has developed in this case. Work ethic – you are right nothing replaces this. And we worked really hard the last 2 years – our daughter especially. Doing everything for her horses from sun up til sun down at home and at shows.


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