I am privileged to own a horse named Khaya. She may not be the flashiest or scopiest horse out there, but she has ability in all three phases. She is tough, trainable, and has developed an understanding & desire to do her job - Despite all of this, it’s not been a journey filled with winning and success from the start. I have had mixed results and many failures on her in the last few seasons, which have really tested my faith in myself and our partnership.
Khaya is the nicest horse I’ve ever gotten to compete, so I had great expectations when I first started eventing her. Our first event was the BE90 at Rackham in the UK in June 2017. We had an embarrassing dressage test, and when we cantered out of the startbox Khaya started spooking and napping all the way down to fence 1! I was kicking and slapping for the first 5 fences on course, at 90cm, on the horse that I had the goal of doing a 1* on at the end of the season!
Everybody who has horses can agree; goals change. That first season we had mixed results at BE100. After spending the winter hunting, hacking, and training, we came out the next season stronger but again, lacked consistency with mixed results (now at Novice level). I got a couple of other experienced riders to compete her, trying to sort out our issues XC. After getting 20’s on her they agreed that she was nappy, spooky and green. At that point with the number of runs that she had under her belt, she should have been further along! Fighting myself and my ego, I knew that I needed to get her confidence back. I got some great help and support, changed her program and moved her down to BE100. I focused on building her confidence rather than getting placings, and it worked - she moved back up to Novice level with a series of clear XC runs!
My big expectations and the amount of pressure I placed on our partnership most likely contributed to our failures. There has been a lot of sweat & tears, but above all many moments where I lost my faith - not only questioning myself, but my horse. After moving my whole life over from Canada to buy and event this one horse, with it going poorly I asked myself time and time again: “Am I really an event rider?” & “Is my horse really an event horse?”
I lost faith in myself and my horse.
“I should just give up”, “I should sell my horse”, “I am not good enough”, “I don’t have the talent/money/opportunities” .. my poor friends and family have had to deal with many of these phone calls filled with a number of excuses! I've come so close to going home and selling Khaya, I’m proud that we are still giving it a go! We are finally getting some success 3 seasons in, and I’m proud of that. However, I’m even more proud of the fact that we ARE still going, through all those times that I lost my faith!
Reflecting on the good results in our first couple of international events this season has also made me reflect on the last couple of seasons we’ve had. I chose to look past all the reasons to quit and kept my faith in a great horse. Hopefully sharing Khy and I's story will help somebody out there feeling like giving up on their horse or themselves. Try to find some faith, even if it’s deep down; that if you work hard, and keep at it, the results will come.
Khaya & I at our first international: Ballindenisk CCI ** S: 4th place with the help of the team at Global Event Horses!
In the last few years I’ve learned that success could be right around the corner, and it often doesn’t come when you most want it, despite how much you wish it would! Maybe you have a superstar horse that you’ve lost a bit of faith in. Maybe it’s the one that keeps getting eliminated because it doesn’t yet understand skinnies, or water, or ditches. I bet there’s a chance that if you put your mind to it that you will find a way to help your horse understand their job. Maybe they just need a second chance or a new approach, or maybe they just need some time.
Khaya & I at Tattersalls International: Finishing on our dressage score in the CCI ** L to place 6th in a class of 69 starters!
I still find myself asking.. Why do I do this? I ask myself when something goes wrong at an event or when I have a terrible ride at home! I think the answer is simply that I love horses, and I love riding. I am constantly reminding myself that I’m learning and so is my horse, and to remember to enjoy the journey. I will learn to have better reactions, and support what I’m riding in time. The answer might be the same for you if you’re having trouble believing in yourself or your horse. As an impatient person with big ambitions I struggle every time I get the advice: it will all come in time. Keep showing up, and keep putting in the time. But it's proving to be true.
This season I’m starting to realize all Khaya really needed (and still needs) is time, even if it’s been a lot more time than I thought it would take. I think the same goes for me!