Goals and Costs

Would you happily go out and have your training session in pouring rain and freezing mist?
Would you happily go out and have your training session in pouring rain and freezing mist?

Something that has been on my mind recently – what are you prepared to pay?  Not quite the question you may think.  Often, we ask people, what are your goals?  For me, in the teaching industry, what are the goals you have for your riding and your horse?  I’m thinking a better question would be, what are you prepared to go through?  Let me explain what I mean…

A friend wanted to be a dancer.  She liked the idea of performing on stage – of taking lead roles and strutting her stuff.  The accolades, the feel of achievement after performing a difficult routine, the nicely aching muscles of a hard work out.  She was pretty good, but she would chat about what it would be like when she was at the top of her game.  Maybe she got flu – she would miss a few practices.  Then, she was invited away for a weekend, so she would miss a few more.  Being on point in her ballet shoes rubbed her toes, so she’d skip a couple of days.  Then, she really wanted that dessert that she knew would make her costume tight, but hey, what is one dessert, right?  She wanted the outcome, but she really didn’t want the cost, and when it came to the crunch, she wasn’t prepared to pay the bill of hours, blood, sweat and tears.  She’d be stressed about missing a class, but the temptation of that morning lie in was just too great.  Nothing wrong with that – just the cost of her imagined goal was too expensive.  When she finally passed on that goal – when her dancing became a hobby and other goals grew bigger, she became happier, more relaxed and actually a better dancer, even though she was now sticking at a lower level.  The cost, for her, was simply too high.

Another of my friends is a fantastic singer.  Really, she gives you goosebumps.  But, she was sitting back saying she wasn’t sure it would be something to follow – the hours of practicing, the no smoking, no drinking or partying, the days of no speaking if you need to rest your voice.  The long hours of restriction, working, travel, commitment.  She, hesitatingly, applied to music schools, got accepted, trained and is now getting great roles as a professional opera singer – and she is quite phenomenal.  She wanted her goals so much that she is prepared to pay the costs in her time, effort and sometimes discomfort.  For her, following her dreams is worth the cost, she is willing to pay whatever it takes.  But, she really understood the cost, which is why she hesitated – she went into it with her eyes very definitely wide open.

The difference between these two – the dancer wanted the outcome, the singer has learnt to cope with (and even relish) the journey.  The same is with everything – the people who only have the end goal in sight often struggle, the people who embrace the cost of the journey – those are the ones who get to their dream.

So, to riders.  I often hear riders say – I want to…..  (Insert dream here – ride grand prix dressage or jumping, event 3 star, train piaffe, win an endurance race etc).  Sadly, those are often the very riders who don’t get there.  When they are asked to ride the tricky horse, they baulk.  When told to take away their stirrups they sigh.  When the alarm clock goes off, they hit the snooze button.  And when those really cute shoes are on sale, the extra training session gets cancelled.  The riders I get excited about are the ones who say – I want to feel my horse’s back lift, I want my lateral work to improve, I want to feel how getting myself fitter will help my endurance horse cover greater distances quicker.  These riders are the ones ready to embrace the challenge.  It is the rider who enjoys the 5am alarm clock (or least, doesn’t hit snooze) and roll out of bed to chase the dawn with their horse, and (reasonably) cheerfully mucks out the stables, who enjoys the process, the drilling, the blisters, falls and tears, who is more likely to get there.  The road to top level equestrian pursuits is not an easy one, and the person who doesn’t enjoy, or least accept each and every step is going to be very hard pushed to stick to it.  Often they are the ones who come up with excuses – yes, but, my knee hurts….  There is nothing wrong in riding your horse to the best that you can, and enjoying it at every level without hitting top grade.  Happy hackers often apologise when they come for lessons, saying I am sorry, I only hack….  And I ask, why apologise?  You are riding for pleasure, to enjoy your horse, to enjoy the challenge of having a non-human friend, I salute those riders who are not saying – I have to get to top level….  Each person has a slightly different goal and slightly different acceptance of the cost to get there.  If we were all the same, what a boring world it would be.

So, again, my question to you as a rider – not what is your end goal. But how much are you willing to pay?

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