The Best Ribbons Aren’t Always Blue

Greater San Diego Hunter Jumper Association Adult Medal Finals 2015 in Del Mar, California

By Lauren Davis

I finished seventh in my adult medal (aka “Cougar Medal”) this year in our Greater San Diego Hunter Jumper Association Championship Show. Of course I’d wanted to win or at least come home with a tri-color. I spent a great deal of time visualizing my perfect round and putting any negative thoughts out of my mind leading up to my class. I put myself through some serious medal prep boot camp prior to the show and for once, I finally felt competitive for my final.

The second I had a stop in the first round of my medal final, I was crushed. I saw my dream of a tri-color ribbon disappear. No matter how much you prepare, and despite your positive mindset, the ride does not always play out like you envision.

Despite my career in the heart of the industry, as a sales manager for EquiFit, Inc., I cannot afford my own packing slave of a horse nor do I always have the time put in all the hours of riding I’d like, since I travel roughly nine months out of the year. I am blessed to work beside the best of the best in this crazy sport that so many of us are infected with. If I can’t ride every day (or week), at least I can watch and learn from industry professionals while I am in the field. As an adult amateur working to support my riding habit, I have found it is inevitable to succumb to the pressure I put on myself at times. How much am I spending on horse shows? Can I afford this? Will my industry peers take me seriously on a professional level if I’m not winning? (I mean it’s 2’6” for goodness sake!)

Regrouping after my refusal, I heard words passed on to my trainer from a professional before her. “We are not curing cancer. We are jumping horses over colored poles and fake flowers.” My perspective changed and I for once was able to focus and just RIDE. I made it to the second round and I rode my horse knowing I wasn’t going to place in the top, but knowing I needed to prove to myself and my horse that we could interpret the test set before us.

Atticus and I at DVG Show Stables in San Diego

Yes, we had rail, but for the first time in my life I was most proud of myself for moving past disappointment and my own ego. I rode for my horse and that was worth more than any ribbon I could have taken home. To be honest, all the ribbons I display at home represent a special moment in my riding career despite their color. I love this sport for the humility, courage, and work ethic it teaches.

Thank you to my dear friend and trainer Alixe Del Valle Garcia-Falso for helping me overcome the voice in my head, and enabling me to finally ride the horse beneath me. Most of all thank you Atticus for being such a great teacher, partner, therapist, and treat vacuum. There’s always 2016!

Lauren Davis, struggling adult amateur and incurable horse addict, Carlsbad, Calif.

This article was originally published in the January/February 2016 print edition of The Plaid Horse.