Progress Makes Perfect

Over the weekend I took Java to our last schooling show in preparation for May-Daze in 2 weeks. Making our recognized Eventing debut has been a goal of mine since that first mini trial a year and a half ago. But, as is expected in life, several setbacks and curve balls have kept that from happening. So now – a back injury, bad lease situation, and a baby later – we may finally be reaching that goal.

With this small accomplishment finally within my reach, we have been working hard to get back on track, but the process hasn’t been pretty. There have been long days, late nights and more tears than I’d like to admit trying to reestablish our relationship, rebuild her foundation and get myself back in shape.

Each ride, lesson, schooling show, YouTube video and article read has been in the pursuit of progress. Slowly piecing things back together and trying to find the horse I once had. One step at a time, one inch closer to a destination that has too long seemed out of reach.

Photo courtesy of Diane Begemann.

This past weekend was, in my mind, my final chance to put the pieces together, to sort out our issues and head into May-Daze feeling capable and confident.


Looking at the scores part of me wants to grimace. On paper, I had fallen short of my goal to shave a few points off my dressage score from last month. The progress I felt like we had been making at home should have resulted in a lower score, a higher placing, a prettier ribbon. But it didn’t.

And at the end of the day, part of me wanted to walk away with my tail between my legs, questioning our preparedness and highly considering scratching next weekend. But I didn’t.

Because I realized that my journey with Java has been about more than what’s on the scoreboard.

Is she the fanciest horse? No.

Is she the bravest horse? No.

But does she show up every day willing to work? …Also no.

So when I didn’t have an argumentative warm up, I was thrilled. Even though on paper, our dressage score went up, with remarks like “fussy” and “tense”, the scores don’t tell of the soft and supple warm-up, of the quiet and listening horse that I was riding just moments prior. They showed that horse disappeared for 3 minutes, which just happened to be in front of the judge.

And in stadium, when I got a bad distance, jumped up her neck and she jumped anyway, I could not have been more proud (of her, not me). Although our round was clear, the scores don’t show the horse that was stopping at cross-rails a few months ago, worrying that every fence might cause her back pain to flair up.

Our scores may have landed us out of the ribbons, but when I could put my leg on to a fence, feeling her listen and trust me to each and every jump, I felt like I won. Because no ribbon can convey the fact that she was rushing just weeks prior, with very little confidence in me or her job.

So though we walked away empty handed, the progress we made during those 2 phases makes it all worth it.

Photo courtesy of CanterClix.

It’s easy to get caught up in an arbitrary goal, promising yourself that if you can just reach it then you’ll be satisfied. You’ll be happy, fulfilled, seeing the progress as long as you can accomplish that one thing. But falling short doesn’t mean failing, especially when you can look back and see the change in your horse, yourself and your ride.

In the pursuit of your goals a lower score, a higher placing, a clean round doesn’t make a perfect ride. Slowly whittling away at the problems, working diligently to find solutions, and the overall progress – no matter how slow it may seem – is what it’s all about. Progress makes perfect. 



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