WEF has been so many things. It’s beautiful, slightly overwhelming, extremely well run and (obviously) horsey heaven. It has shown me time and time again that I am a very little fish in a giant ocean. The grand hunter ring has challenged and humbled me. The international ring almost chewed me up and spit me out but we gave it our all and I still had the time of my life riding in a ring I only knew from watching live-streams on my laptop.
The first two weeks felt something like this: you think your riding is solid and you think you know your horse. Then you’re ten out, about to get on to warm up after watching one gorgeous trip after the next, analyzing one of the longest tracks you’ve ridden since your two and a half years back in the saddle and sizing up which beautiful yet potentially spooky filler may speak to your horse that day. You try to tune out the announcements from the other rings, the drop you feel in your stomach when the seasoned horse and rider before you lays down an 89 and focus on the task at hand. But as you enter the ring and complete your opening circle, your canter feels all wrong, the sun creates a crazy glare on some of the jumps and you’re squinting trying to make out where you are. Everything that usually feels so natural and easy turns inside out and upside down. Your horse, also green to this ring, these jumps and this division, decides to do his best giraffe impression and you’re left grasping at straws trying to keep it together and finish respectfully. You complete your closing circle, exit the ring, giving your horse all of the pats for getting around like a good giraffe and are hit with conflicting emotions: the first, is the let down from hearing your score. The second, is the adrenaline rush because YOU ARE HERE and you are DOING THIS. So many riders would do anything to even be able to visit WEF, and you’re here, RIDING.
It’s a mental game of cat and mouse, and you can either be your biggest advocate or your own arch nemesis. I’ve had to dig really deep and fight to make myself feel worthy of being here, regardless of what I’m told. The boys and I have gone on to place in a respectable number of classes, finally feeling at ease with our surroundings and becoming familiar with the ins and outs of the horseshow flow. And let me tell you, never have I ever felt so stupid proud over a handful of white, pink, green, purple and brown ten-cent ribbons.
Looking forward to week eight, I am going in focused. I’ve learned how to tune out what’s going on around me and focus on my horse and my trainer. The nerves have begun to subside and I choose to be inspired and motivated by the beautiful, high-scoring trips instead of intimidated. Having a clear head makes for effective riding, and thankfully I’m feeling back in-sync with the boys. (Much to their relief, I’m sure!) I really can’t say it enough, I just am so lucky to be here.
As my trainer said, it’s about the climb. I was totally naive thinking I’d be able to walk into the grand hunter ring and lay down a winning trip. I am a little fish. WEF is my giant ocean, full of giant goddamn sharks. Some of them are nice sharks, like Bruce from Finding Nemo. But others aren’t so nice, and more along the lines of the scary one from Jaws. But I’m still here, and I’m not drowning, I’m swimming along just fine and loving every single second of it.