In the Olympic port of equestrian “eventing,” horse and rider take on three sports in three days: dressage, cross-country jumping, and stadium jumping. In dressage, they are judged on the harmony and balance of horse and rider, in the jumping courses, they are judged on time and number of faults.
Here I talk to two horses that compete in this top-level sport. I am want to know if they like the sport, or if it stresses their body and mind too much. Horses are anonymous.
Horse number #1: My legs get extremely tired after the cross-county course. I need to have a lot of gel rubbed on my legs in order to perform to my best level in the jumping course. I was bred for this sport and I know what I need to do. I wish that after the three days they would put me out to pasture but instead they put me in a stall so that I can rest my legs. I try very hard.
I try for myself. Not really for my rider. I know a lot of the horses have trained very hard to reach this level, and we know that if we do our best in training we will be rewarded. The excitement around me and the smiles and pats I get from people feel good. Sometimes I feel like my body is pushed too far, and often I have to force myself to remain alert because if I get lazy in my mind I can sustain an injury. It is too easy to injury oneself. I would like to continue training at such a high level but I want to retire from this sport in my early teens.
Horses that are in their late teens doing this sport are hurting themselves. They do it because they have been the best, but it is unfair of the people to keep them going that long. This is true of most of the horses I have seen at that age. Except for one. That horse was amazing. He had a supple athletic body till he was old. That is rare. All of us horses admire him.
Horse #2: I love this sport. I have found that both horse and rider need the same determination, otherwise the horse and rider do not advance. I love winning ribbons. I absolutely love it. I love dressage because I feel my person working in harmony with me and it helps me stretch out my body from the jumping courses. Jumping puts a lot of stress on a horse’s body and dressage takes that stress off. I love to jump, too. I get a very nervous jumping down the steep hills especially after hearing that so many horses have fallen. I just focus very hard on what I need to do and on creating what perfect looks like. My rider is the same. She loves perfect.
I cannot imagine just being ridden and not going for the best. If you are the best everyone will remember you, horses and people. I like to be talked about. I too was bred for this sport and when that happens there is something in our bodies that need to work and push ourselves, otherwise our minds get bored. To be a good jumper you need a rider that allows you to also figure out the stride (how many steps before the jump). Too many horses are controlled. My rider is awesome. I love this sport. If I could change anything it would be to be a private barn at night. When I sleep with all the other competing horses in disturbs me because there is too much intensity in the barn. I handle it but I would rather sleep with ponies that have played in the fields all day.