I cannot imagine how frustrating it is for an Olympic athlete (or really, any high level athlete) to train, travel, and dedicate their time to a cause only for the moment to be not right. Sport is tricky – combining the physical elements with the traditional goal seeking human behaviors encourages misalignment. The Olympics only happen once every four years. This cycle can be cruel – there are so many equestrians that are at the top of their game in between the Games, but when the qualifying and selection process occurs, they find themselves with an aging mount or a pesky injury.
One of the core conditions we accept about this sport is not only our own physical limitations, but also those of our companions. We, as riders, can feel ready to perform, but as soon as we get a shrug from our partners, we have to pack it up, go home, and try again another day.
There is no “they can push through it” or “mind over matter”. Or at least, there shouldn’t be. We are placed in the unique position of balancing our own ambitions with the health of our partners.
I doubt Kerri Walsh had to decide whether or not Misty May-Treanor was physically able to compete in any of their Olympic bouts. Even if Misty felt “meh” from her ruptured Achilles injury, she could elect to continue, because it is within her capabilities to do so as a communicative human. Horses do speak to us, but not so bold as to suggest we should ignore them when they are not feeling well.
As frustrating as waiting for a double green light can be, it is also one of the beautiful things about the sport. It breeds respect of the trust and partnership we build with these animals. As a result of this, horsepeople can be the most thoughtful and worldlessly sympathetic people I know.
Unfortunately, we are sidelined for now, but luckily it is supposed to be for short while. And thankfully, I am NOT an Olympic athlete (pick your jaws off the floor, everybody) and thus my stakes are much lower. My concerns do not have to consider pleasing sponsors or making a profit, and thus I can solely worry about my horse feeling better.
As a teenager, I think idle time was more frustrating for me, but now I get to reflect on how to improve and take a breath. It has actually been nice to have a moment to wait for summer to truly appear and wait until my friend is ready.