We live in a society of the have’s and have-not’s. With my fellow equestrians, I have seemingly self-selected into a community of have’s where even reasonable wealth will still make you feel jealousy.
A large reason why I like the jumpers is the fact the judging criteria is clear. You are the fastest person on this day. You win. You have a rail? You get second.
I definitely appreciate the importance of hunters. We all need to begin on line, angle line, line, angle line. We have to have straightness, counting strides, soft equitation, and happy looking horses.
Hunters are a foundation that we all need. But as we climb up the levels, it is also increasingly a demonstration of what money can buy you, and what hard work cannot win you.
How often do we look at the top rings in the country and see the same rotating ring of riders and trainers? Yes, they are good and elite people stay at the top of the sport. But also, should it be that rare for us to see and upstart thoroughbred and a kid from the midwest competing at that level?
I have reached my own inner peace about not affording the upper echelons of this sport. As a kid, I wanted to do it all, and I got to do a good amount considering many kids never even own a horse.
But one thing stayed with me. Even on my best day in the Hunter ring, where my short-strided and fiery thoroughbred got all the leads, all the distances, and my wool coat was cleaned to perfection and my second-hand, pull-on boots were polished.
I still got fifth to more expensive and beautiful horses that chipped into lines. It did not matter how hard I worked to be my best, I would never be the best in my parent’s income bracket.
It’s a tough lesson to learn as a young teenager. You feel frustrated, and don’t quite understand why amateurs get to have 4 beautiful warmbloods that they pay your trainers to ride, when you work tirelessly to ride your hot-blooded horse every day.
Growing older has given me a lot of perspective on this, and I no longer resent others for what they have. I can watch the Jessica Springsteens of the sport and simply muse that they are great riders. Yes, they may have had more opportunities, but that should not take away my enjoyment. As well, becoming the working amateur has made me realize just how hard it is to ride and work, it leaves almost no time for other activities. Heck, if I could afford to have my horse tacked up for me after long work days, I might consider it! 😛
Upper level hunter classes are still a sore spot for me though. Not because I feel anger, but moreover because I feel boredom. I am not inspired by the stories I see in the ring like this one. I can appreciate its beauty, but it no longer causes excitement in me.